For Sustained Success, the Kansas City Royals Better Hang on to Ervin Santana


I believe in Magic. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Do you believe in Magic? That’s what Dayton Moore and David Glass need to ask themselves, because the time has come. It’s time to extend Ervin “Magic” Santana. For all we know, discussions between Moore, Glass, and Santana (and his agent) are already under way. But they have to like this guy, right? They can’t be ready to let him walk. This is a no-brainer, isn’t it?

I think it is. MLBTR already has a poll up about which players will be extended before hitting free agency, which includes the following six players: Santana,  Robinson Cano, Chase Utley (just got extended), Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, and Hunter Pence. Of all those players…the player who is probably most important to his team’s future success is Ervin Santana.

Utley is old, and the Phillies are a wreck. Cano is a stud…but again…his New York Yankees look like a sinking ship. McCann? Maybe. But the Braves do have a young slugger named Evan Gattis ready to step in if needed. Morales? Nah. Pence? I don’t know…the Giants seem like another team on the slide to me…and while I do like Pence, his line the last two seasons for the Phillies and Giants is .263/.321/.436…seems like with all the outfielders bouncing around the majors, Pence is replaceable.

Which brings us back to Ervin Santana and our Kansas City Royals – and the only pitcher on the above list of players. Many thought Santana wouldn’t do much this year, after a shaky 2012…and I was on the fence myself. I did like the move, and assumed he’d bounce back, but didn’t figure him for (to this point) career bests in ERA and WHIP. His HR rate has also come back to earth. After an awful 2012, which saw him giving up homers at a rate of 2 per 9 innings, he’s back to 1 per 9 this year (his career average is 1.2, so this is more in line with his usual numbers). James Shields is the leader of this staff, but as far as being the “ace”…well…Ervin’s given him a run for his money.

“But we’re a small market team…Ownership is more concerned about turning a profit than winning…”

Look…I’ve been as critical as anyone when it comes to David Glass and spending. And more importantly, critical of Dayton Moore and how he’s chosen to spend that money. That said, I have come around on Glass. I do think he wants to win. He’s spent more money this year with the expectation of a good product on the field – and his investment has paid off.

And Moore? Say what you will about the trade of Wil Myers for James Shields (are you STILL hung up on that?), it’s worked. And the trade for Santana has worked, too. These two moves by Moore have put the Royals in position to fight for postseason play for the first time since 1985…I call that a success.

So, can the Royals afford Santana? Most speculation I’ve heard has the necessary deal at somewhere around 4 years for a total between $50 and $60 million. I don’t see why that’s out of the question. If Mr. Glass is serious about winning, and I think he is, this signing has to be one of the most important personnel decisions for the Royals in the last 20 years.

Guthrie’s been great, but is he a solid #2? Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Looking ahead to 2014, we know Shields and Jeremy Guthrie will be back in the fold. Shields will of course be the ace of the staff while Guthrie will ideally be no higher than a #3 starter. We do have plenty of young arms in the mix, and a couple we’ve already seen contribute (for better or worse). Some of these guys could take big steps forward heading into 2014. Key word being “could.” Santana, though, is good to go. No question marks. Do I expect a repeat of 2013? Not really. But he does have a career 4.20 ERA and his 162 game averages are: 14 wins, 216 IP, 171 K, 67 BB, and 1.2 HR/9. That’s a very good and reliable veteran pitcher.

Two more factors to consider in relation to Santana’s performance: the ballpark and the defense. Pitching about half his games in Kauffman Stadium means fly balls aren’t going over the wall as often…and the ones that stay in the yard? Well, if you were a pitcher, wouldn’t you love to have guys like Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain out there running everything down? Seems like the combination of Santana’s god given talent and these other circumstances add up to make one hell of a pitcher. Those are two factors Moore will pitch to Santana and his agent, and two factors I have to believe Santana is very aware of.

Now, let’s say we do keep him. If we return in 2014 with the same three veterans leading the way, the Royals have plenty of options to fill out the last couple of spots. Waiting in the wings and/or returning to the mix are guys like Wade Davis, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Will Smith, Luis Mendoza, and Kyle Zimmer, to name a few. Looking at those names…we’ve got some guys who will definitely be ready out of spring training. We’ve got a guy in Ventura who will be knocking on the door in early 2014, and another in Zimmer who is a little further out. Of those pitchers (minus Zimmer)…who are you comfortable with as a #3 starter? Because without Santana, Guthrie is the #2 and we fill out the rest of the rotation in-house (barring some other FA signing).

I’m okay with those guys making up the back end of the rotation, until they show something more…but I’m NOT okay with Guthrie as a #2 while three of the above guys fill things out. I don’t like that rotation nearly as much as the version with Santana. And why look at another free agent possibility when we’ve got a guy in the locker room that can do the job?

Glass and Moore need to make the push now. The team has buzz around it for the first time in a long time. Bringing Shields and Santana here for 2013 made a statement. Why break up the core of  the best Royals rotation in years? Letting Santana hit the market could be a disaster for this franchise. It’s time to make another statement. Let’s keep Ervin in Royal Blue.

Oh…and when you’re done with Ervin? Let’s go ahead and start working on Shields, too.