Santana, who’s $13 million option was exercised by the Angels, is coming off of the worst year in his career, posting a 5.16 ERA and totaling a negative fWAR total (-0.9) in 30 starts.
This deal, however, is exactly the type of move the perennially rebuilding Royals need to make. It allows them to bring in a highly talented — if not equally frustrating — starting pitcher for pennies on the dollar without having to drastically overpay for his services on the open market (remember Gil Meche?) and not commit to anything longer than one year (again, remember Gil Meche?).
Santana’s experienced both severe highs — 5.8 fWAR in 2008 — and lows — 2012 being the worst — in his career. But outside of the unsightly ERA last season (5.18), there’s actually a lot of reason to believe that he will rebound in 2013, at least back to a slightly above-average league starter which he was in 2010 and 2011.
Santana’s peripheral stats, at least in terms of walks and strikeouts, have been remarkably consistent over the past four years, averaging between 6.72 and 7.01 punch outs and 2.83 and 3.08 free passes every nine innings. But it’s his homerun rate that spiked in 2012, to an MLB-high 1.97 HR/9.
Historically, the soon-to-be 31-year-old’s homerun rates have fluctuated quite a bit, but it’s never been at this level before, the 2012 mark was nearly 0.75 homeruns per nine innings higher than his career average. Not only that, but his strand rate, which was just about 76% between 2010 and 2011, was also low, at 69.8%.
Playing devil’s advocate, of course, Santana did post an abnormally low BABIP this season, .241, and he will be moving to a neutral park rather than pitching in a favorable environment, so there will be negative impact there too. But, by and large, there are really no reasons to suggest that he can’t bounce back and be productive next season.
And as far as production versus dollars goes, as long as Santana posts a 2.0- to 2.5-win season the Royals get what they essentially paid for with only having to part with 27-year-old minor league reliever. Anything else on top of that is a bonus. And who knows, maybe when Santana bounces back — and if the Royals show some serious progress this season — they might be able to convince him to stay.
There’s really nothing to hate about this move if you’re a Royals fan, really.
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