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Twins Blogosphere


The Twins Should Be Shopping Ervin Santana

Twins general manager Thad Levine has not been secretive regarding his pursuit of top available pitching talent. He recognizes a need to bolster the front end of his rotation.

In the Offseason Handbook, I wrote a blueprint suggesting that the Twins trade Ervin Santana and sign Yu Darvish to replace him as the club's veteran No. 1 starter.

Today I'll dig deeper into the rationale behind dealing Santana, because while it's partially about clearing his 2018 salary to make a big-money signing more palatable, there are other factors to consider as well.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
First, let's acknowledge the obvious: Santana was spectacular in 2017. He had arguably the best season for a Twins starting pitcher since Johan left town. Big Erv made the All Star team, finished seventh in Cy Young voting, and buoyed an otherwise shaky rotation.

But that's exactly why his value is at an all-time high. Historically, career years at the age of 34 don't often become trends, and Santana's in particular carried many indicators of being aided by luck (evidenced by a 4.46 FIP).

He's still a reliable, proven workhorse and that's why he has value to any team – including the Twins – but right now his value is peaking. Derek Falvey talked when he came aboard about being "opportunistic," and this would be the definition.

Santana has only one guaranteed year left on his contract, but here's the thing: His 2019 option triggers if he throws 200 innings next year. In the event he regresses to his FIP – or even his 4.02 career ERA – but still reaches that milestone, you're locked into him for $14 million at age 36, right in the middle of a peak window for winning with Byron Buxton and Co.

Santana's team-friendly contract can turn into a hindrance rather quickly.

It might be easier to sell ownership on a $150 million splash for Darvish (already named by Levine as a priority target) if you can get that potential $27 million commitment to Santana off the books. And swapping out a 34-year-old with one/two years of team control for a 31-year-old with five/six makes plenty of sense in the greater team-building scheme.

But even beyond the financials, there is an obvious sell-high angle at play here. Of course, other GMs will notice that as well. You can only be opportunistic if there are opportunities to exploit.

Who might actually be interested in Santana, and at what price?

In my mind, it won't be a World Series contender looking to add that final rotation piece. Many can afford to pursue a top free agent arm, and few would actually view the veteran starter as a meaningful upgrade to their playoff rotation.

Instead, I look at teams trying to claw their way back into contention, and in desperate need of a veteran who can provide quality innings. My suggested match in the Handbook was the Cincinnati Reds, who have been withering away a Hall of Fame career for Joey Votto with three straight 90-loss seasons.

There's pressure to get things turned around in a hurry, but the Reds aren't exactly positioned to go get Jake Arrieta. Santana would represent a modest financial commitment, and he'd immediately slot next to young fireballer Luis Castillo atop the rotation. Erv has been credited as a mentor in Minnesota – that factors as well with the 24-year-old Castillo being a fellow Dominican.

In the blueprint I tossed out right-hander Robert Stephenson as a hypothetical return for Santana. He's a high-upside young pitcher, and former first-round pick, who has struggled with control thus far in the majors (5.10 ERA, 1.60 WHIP in 120 innings). He did, however, put together an excellent late run in the Cincy rotation.

Given his organization's scarcity of promising arms, Stephenson might be asking too much. But he's just one name. The Reds have a number of prospects capable of enriching the Twins system.

There's also Raisel Iglesias. Jon Morosi reported Minnesota's interest in the Reds closer a couple of weeks ago, and while it'd take plenty more to pry him loose (Romero? Gonsalves?), Santana's presence might help move the needle.

It's all speculation, of course, but therein lies the fun. Which other teams do you view as possible partners in a Santana trade? What would you be looking to get in return?

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127 Comments

 

The idea of trading off Santana doesn't make sense unless you think he'll turn into a pumpkin - in which case you should also think he has no trade value, esp to rebuilding teams that should horde younger players.

 

If you think Santana can pitch about 190 innings next year with a ERA+ of around 100 then you should keep him because we don't have five pitchers that will beat that. He's not blocking anyone and the Twins window is currently open. They shouldn't worry about 2019 when they should be worrying about 2018.

 

And if you think ownership is worried about paying a 36 year old pitcher 14m then how are you going to convince the same owner to pay Darvish 25m per year for his 35-37 years?

There is middle ground here. Even if the Twins are confident that Santana is going to produce ~190 innings with a 100 ERA+, they should do the due-diligence to see if any other team wants to bet that he will repeat his 210 inning, 130 ERA+ performance from last year, and they should price him accordingly. The Angels, Mariners, Orioles and Rangers are all in "win-now" mode with windows that are quickly closing, and they all desperately need starting pitching. If you could get Seattle, for example, to offer Kyle Lewis and Edwin Diaz, I think they should make that trade and try to replace Santana's innings with a mid-tier starter (someone like Vargas, Garcia or even Sabathia). 

 

Basically, I don't think Santana is untouchable, and the Twins should be confident in their own talent evaluations to take advantage if another team wildly overvalues one of their players.

    • birdwatcher and laloesch like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Nov 29 2017 09:58 AM

I can't support trading Santana. He's the type of pitcher you can write 175+ IP in permanent ink on Opening Day. Sure, he's getting older and might regress but I don't care. $13m for 175 IP of 100 ERA+, I'll take it on this team every time. I don't care about 2019's salary right now, I want to see the Twins at least make the ALDS and Santana helps them reach that goal.

 

If you need to trade Santana to convince the Pohlads to take on Darvish, it's time to fire up Excel and show how much money they'll make with an 88-90 win season and 5-7 postseason games, never mind how that sets them up for 2019 sans Mauer and a growing season ticket base.

 

It's time to spend money on this team. Maybe not Darvish money but legit starting pitcher money.

    • birdwatcher, Jerr, DJSim22 and 5 others like this

Santana's peak value would be at the trade deadline. Any value would be because he is having a decent season and can be jettisoned at the end of the year. In terms of salary dollars having an affect on the Twins payroll for the year, I doubt there is enough pitching out there that the Twins could reasonably, or slightly unreasonably bid on and get to make it to the max that the Twins could spend.

    • SarasotaBill likes this
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Kelly Vance
Nov 29 2017 10:47 AM

 

Not quite close: 

Santana 2017: 3.28 ERA, 4.46 FIP, 2.9 fWAR, 19.3 K%, 12.3 K/BB, 1.13 WHIP/ .245 BABIP, 10.1 SwStr%

FranKKKKie 2010: 3.62 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 5.7 fWAR, 24.9 K%, 17.7K/BB, 1.26 WHIP/ .331 BABIP, 12.5 SwStr%

 

That said, I totally agree with the rest:Santana needs to go.That ERA-FIP difference, the facts that he was not consistent but had an extremely unreliable June (6.03 ERA) and July (4.68 ERA), he is half a ligament away from disaster, and very likely his 2019 option will vest with IP in 2018, makes it a must to get him traded.Plus he chocked when it really mattered in the postseason.

 

Package him with Dozier and see what you get.

Sure, trade our best pitcher and most reliable power hitter over the past few years just to "see what you get?"  I'm pretty sure you were just thinking out loud,  but man. a team on the rise needs to keep its best players and build around them, not send them away. Besides, they are both clubhouse leaders.

    • birdwatcher, Jerr, gunnarthor and 3 others like this
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Kelly Vance
Nov 29 2017 10:51 AM

Like death and taxes, it is a sure thing that Nick and I will disagree. No offense. 

Erv is our best pitcher and he is worth every penny. He may regress, but I remember several games where our BP blew his win in progress. He is an innings eater and when he is on he can throw a complete game... 7th in voting for Cy Young and was under rated at that. You bet on guys like that, not against them. I'd rather see him on the Twins, mentoring Gonsalves and Berios.  Plus there is a dynamic some never seem to take into consideration. That is, that we don't want a mercenary front office with no loyalty. If we want to attract FA players, it is better to show some loyalty to our guys. It is also a good way to keep our current guys from wanting to bail. Think Calvin Griffith's Waseca speech in reverse. 

    • laloesch, gagu, Don Walcott and 1 other like this

Thing is that $14M is not that bad for a decent FA starter. Shop him, sure and if you get a great offer, take it. But anyone they sign would be more expensive. The original Santana deal was a good one for the Twins!

    • Kelly Vance likes this
I'm on the side of keep him for now. If you get three starters in the offseason, then trade him. That is probably a less than 1% chance of happening.

Look at it again mid-season depending upon how the team is doing. I don't expect him to be a Twin in 2019. Just a gut feeling.

There really isn't much of a reason not to at least see what's out there, but they don't need to deal him.Even if they do, it needs to be the right deal and one of several others.Just like with Dozier last offseason, it can't be the only deal.There has to be other moves/signings to help build the major league squad and the upper minors.

 

All that said, I'm a firm believer that it's better to deal a guy a year too early than it is to deal him a year too late.The previous regime did the latter constantly and it hurt the franchise in the long run.Dealing Santana now is not a sign of perpetual rebuilding.If last years playoffs should have told people anything, it's that this team still has a long way to go to catch up to the real contenders.Some of that will be organic growth from within, some of it will have to come from elsewhere.The only guys that should be near off limits would be the young core four.Beyond that, I'd be listening.Just because you listen, it doesn't mean that you have to make a deal.

 

At this point in time though, I think they would be more prudent to hold on to him until at least the deadline.

 

Assumption - other GMs are not idiots. Other GMs understand good/bad seasons, peak and low values, and age affecting performance.

No one is trading younger pitching (close to the Majors) for Santana.

Santana has strong value for the Twins and you make a decision at the trading deadline when a contender may be desperate for a starter (see Garcia trade).  

This is the key point here. I really don't see the Twins getting a substantial offer for Santana and pretty much all they would get is salary relief. That could be important but this rotation needs more than just swapping the '#1' starter. 

 

But the bigger issue is that the Twins need to add 1 if not 2 good pitchers this offseason. Adding one (better pitcher) and subtracting one good pitcher doesn't really help.

 

I am not against trading Santana if there is a nice prospect or two but I think any Ervin trade would essentially be a salary dump for a minor prospect (top 100-ish). Other GM's know that he is 35 (next month) with poor SABR stats.

    • SQUIRREL likes this

I think I keep him for now. Let's see where the team is at the deadline before trading off assets. This is, of course, assuming they don't sign O and D and need the money for RPs.......

 

I see a regression coming, and I see the team dealing him at the deadline. But, keeping the option open that they are good again has real value (in wins and losses, and ticket sales), and they should keep that value for now.

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Hollywood42
Nov 29 2017 01:19 PM

 

Not quite close: 

Santana 2017: 3.28 ERA, 4.46 FIP, 2.9 fWAR, 19.3 K%, 12.3 K/BB, 1.13 WHIP/ .245 BABIP, 10.1 SwStr%

FranKKKKie 2010: 3.62 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 5.7 fWAR, 24.9 K%, 17.7K/BB, 1.26 WHIP/ .331 BABIP, 12.5 SwStr%

 

That said, I totally agree with the rest:Santana needs to go.That ERA-FIP difference, the facts that he was not consistent but had an extremely unreliable June (6.03 ERA) and July (4.68 ERA), he is half a ligament away from disaster, and very likely his 2019 option will vest with IP in 2018, makes it a must to get him traded.Plus he chocked when it really mattered in the postseason.

 

Package him with Dozier and see what you get.

 

Wha.... What? Now that we're finally a playoff team again, trade our arguably two best players? What?

    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, gunnarthor and 4 others like this

 

Like death and taxes, it is a sure thing that Nick and I will disagree. No offense. 

Erv is our best pitcher and he is worth every penny. 

 

Accept both he and Berrios can't beat the Yankees as evidence this year in the WC game.

It's pretty simple for me. 

 

If the front office has 2019 circled... they lose me immediately. 

 

1. The 2017 Momentum needs to be augmented and supported with pitching to match. 

2. The Tigers, White Sox and Royals look promising for down years. Maybe big down years. 

3. The Majority of American League Teams appear to be lacking a roster full of capable arms. Capable Arms may be a huge advantage. 

 

The door is open... they better walk through the door in 2018 and not wait until 2019 to see if it leads to a different room because ... well... it will be a different room and that may not be good. 

 

It is not the time to move vets who produce for younger players who haven't produced yet but maybe will later. 

 

Santana, Berrios plus Darvish? -- Plus? 

 

Strengh in numbers!

 

It's time to spend... Mr. Pohlad... It's time to spend. 

 

    • Don Walcott likes this
Ervin's year wasn't spectacular. Our standards are just low. It wasnt even as good as it was in 2016. Yes he finished 7th in CY voting. He got 3 points cause 3 voters gave him a 5th place finish (5th place vote gets one point) At least one of the voters was a Minnesota writer. I imagine one of the other two was the Minnesota writer.

And Ervin's year was not arguably better than any Twin starter since Johan left. Phil Hughes had a much, MUCH, better season in 2014 and wasnt helped by having a real low .248 babip like Ervin was. Hughes' babip in 2014 was over .320. Sure, Hughes' season was a major outlier for him and he was never going to repeat it, but it DID happen. And,as someone else mentioned, Lirano in 2010. Both much better than Ervins 2017.

I like Ervin and he's a fine low 2, high 3 pitcher. There is value there, but its hard to imagine his decline stopping. I've been recommending trade since trade deadline 2016. His value only drops as he gets older and his years of control at a great price gets shorter.
    • laloesch likes this

I don't thinjk the contract clause is much of a factor. Santana has logged 200+ innings twice in the past six seasons. If he regresses more than expected I don't see much chance that he locks in. If Ervin is trending 200 in late August, it probably will mean that he still has it. If his arm goes south, shows it's age, late in the season, it would be logical that his workload would decrease. There would be no need pull him early to prevent him from locking in. Point is, Ervin's history shows that he is a steal at $13/14 million when he is able to pitch 200 innings. 

    • gunnarthor likes this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 29 2017 02:55 PM

 

And Ervin's year was not arguably better than any Twin starter since Johan left. Phil Hughes had a much, MUCH, better season in 2014 and wasnt helped by having a real low .248 babip like Ervin was. Hughes' babip in 2014 was over .320. Sure, Hughes' season was a major outlier for him and he was never going to repeat it, but it DID happen. And,as someone else mentioned, Lirano in 2010. Both much better than Ervins 2017.

Those are fine arguments, and I'd probably be inclined to agree, but they're not definitive by any means. I'd say Hughes and Liriano pitched better but they did not stack up in terms of results. Santana has both of them beat in IP, ERA, WHIP, CG, shutouts, etc. Was an All Star and got a bunch of CY votes.

 

I'm a fan of using peripherals and fielding-independent numbers for predictive purposes, but when we're assessing a guy's season in retrospect I think it's fair to just judge him by what he accomplished on the field. And from that standpoint, Erv's 2017 was arguably (maybe even unarguably) the best for a Twin since Johan's 2006.

    • Don Walcott likes this

I would be OK with a Santana trade if:

 

1 - The return is good and the Twins get player(s) that can contribute within the next year or so.

2 - The rotation has been filled with new/better options, not having Gibson and May/Gonsalves penciled in

3 - The FO is convinced Santana is going to regress harshly

 

The chances that all three of these combine is very unlikely, so I don't see a trade happening. But I could very well see Santana regress big time and post a 5.00+ ERA in 2018. Hopefully this doesn't happen and Santana can be a solid #2/3 starter as they push for the playoffs again in 2018.

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Brock Beauchamp
Nov 29 2017 03:25 PM

 

I like Ervin and he's a fine low 2, high 3 pitcher. There is value there, but its hard to imagine his decline stopping. I've been recommending trade since trade deadline 2016. His value only drops as he gets older and his years of control at a great price gets shorter.

I agree with the bolded but the rest kind of loses me.

 

Why do the Twins care about anyone's value beyond their on-field performance right now? To be perfectly blunt, I don't give a rat's ass about Santana's trade value because the Twins made the postseason and Santana helped them get there.

 

Pick up another arm and let Santana help them get to the postseason again. One aspect of baseball fandom I don't really understand is the constant need to maximize trade value in every single player. Some guys give you their value on the field and help you win games and that's what matters.

 

If the Twins were coming off another 72 win season, sure. Trade Santana and get what you can out of him. But why on earth would you trade a guy that can help you win baseball games in the offseason following a postseason appearance when you have one of the youngest rosters in baseball? You go find players to help that guy, you don't just trade him away.*

 

*every player should be traded if the deal just blows you away and/or improves the MLB team

    • SQUIRREL, USAFChief, gunnarthor and 8 others like this

Trading our best pitcher seem kind of silly to me. We need more good pitchers not less.

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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 29 2017 03:58 PM

The only way I trade Santana is if he's picking up a prospect that the Rays covet and can be used with another prospect of ours that they covet to get Archer. Otherwise, I don't see the point in trading him. I'd argue that if he hits his 200 innings, then he likely had a good year and I'd be perfectly fine with him being around on a 1 year deal for less than a QO.

 

I really think this overthinks things...

    • Brock Beauchamp, SarasotaBill and Hollywood42 like this

 

I agree with the bolded but the rest kind of loses me.

 

Why do the Twins care about anyone's value beyond their on-field performance right now? To be perfectly blunt, I don't give a rat's ass about Santana's trade value because the Twins made the postseason and Santana helped them get there.

 

Pick up another arm and let Santana help them get to the postseason again. One aspect of baseball fandom I don't really understand is the constant need to maximize trade value in every single player. Some guys give you their value on the field and help you win games and that's what matters.

 

If the Twins were coming off another 72 win season, sure. Trade Santana and get what you can out of him. But why on earth would you trade a guy that can help you win baseball games in the offseason following a postseason appearance when you have one of the youngest rosters in baseball? You go find players to help that guy, you don't just trade him away.*

 

*every player should be traded if the deal just blows you away and/or improves the MLB team

 

This whole post is right but the bolded part nails it. The value for Santana right now is that he is going to help the 2018 Twins win ballgames. If you traded him, you'd have to replace him with someone similar (or more realistically, 2-3 someones similar).

    • diehardtwinsfan and Twins33 like this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Nov 29 2017 04:05 PM

gunnarthor, on 28 Nov 2017 - 10:04 PM, said:

 

If you think Santana can pitch about 190 innings next year with a ERA+ of around 100 then you should keep him because we don't have five pitchers that will beat that. He's not blocking anyone and the Twins window is currently open. They shouldn't worry about 2019 when they should be worrying about 2018.

And if you think ownership is worried about paying a 36 year old pitcher 14m then how are you going to convince the same owner to pay Darvish 25m per year for his 35-37 years?gunnarthor, on 28 Nov 2017 - 10:04 PM, said:

 

The idea of trading off Santana doesn't make sense unless you think he'll turn into a pumpkin - in which case you should also think he has no trade value, esp to rebuilding teams that should horde younger players.

If you think Santana can pitch about 190 innings next year with a ERA+ of around 100 then you should keep him because we don't have five pitchers that will beat that. He's not blocking anyone and the Twins window is currently open. They shouldn't worry about 2019 when they should be worrying about 2018.

And if you think ownership is worried about paying a 36 year old pitcher 14m then how are you going to convince the same owner to pay Darvish 25m per year for his 35-37 years?

 

 

 

The bottom line is, is Darvish THAT much better than Santana? Santana plus $11 million per year (the difference in their projected salaries at age 36)? 

 

Yes Darvish may be better. We should be going after top-of-the-line starting pitching talent. No question. But to add Darvish and trade Santana – when you need two pitchers at the front end of your rotation makes little sense.

 

We should pursue Ohtani too – I'd love to see him hit AND pitch in a Twins uniform. But he's never pitched in the minor leagues here, or in the majors. No one knows how he will do. He could be another Darvish, or a Kevin Tapani or a Mike Pelfrey. No one knows. So you can hope he'll be great, but you cannot count on him for the top of your rotation, like you can a Darvish or Santana.

 

 

I agree with the bolded but the rest kind of loses me.

 

Why do the Twins care about anyone's value beyond their on-field performance right now? To be perfectly blunt, I don't give a rat's ass about Santana's trade value because the Twins made the postseason and Santana helped them get there.

 

Pick up another arm and let Santana help them get to the postseason again. One aspect of baseball fandom I don't really understand is the constant need to maximize trade value in every single player. Some guys give you their value on the field and help you win games and that's what matters.

 

If the Twins were coming off another 72 win season, sure. Trade Santana and get what you can out of him. But why on earth would you trade a guy that can help you win baseball games in the offseason following a postseason appearance when you have one of the youngest rosters in baseball? You go find players to help that guy, you don't just trade him away.*

 

*every player should be traded if the deal just blows you away and/or improves the MLB team

The value I was referring to was in regards to trade value.If you don't think we should trade him, then that's fine.We just disagree on that.

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EddieMatthews
Nov 29 2017 04:56 PM

Last year's hot stove was boiling over with expectations of a regression by Santana.  Same pot is on the stove this year.  Maybe he's learned a little in the past few years.  His 3-year span with the Twins is the best three year span in his career.  He has 40% of his WAR in the past 3 years.  He has the best defense behind him in his career (a little bias noted here).  

 

Let's see who steps up in 2018.  There are candidates, May, Berrios, Gibson, Mejia, Hughes (?), plus minor league starters who may light up spring training.  None of them would be as good as Santana.  

 

I would love for the Twins to sign a top starter.  Darvish is not the #1 ace they need.  Twins should keep their powder dry.  They should not be wasting it on less than top talent.

 

2018 will not be a World Series year.  2019 could be if their young stars continue to develop and a couple of starters (Berrios, May, ?) step up.  Then, adding the ace will pay big dividends.  With the supporting cast on the 2019 Twins, an ace in search of the WS ring will be happy to play in MN.

    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this
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Deduno Abides
Nov 29 2017 05:15 PM
Everyone, including and especially the FO, wants a competitive team this year. That said, it would be good to trade Santana this year if three conditions occur:

1. Two superior pitchers are acquired first,
2. The FO has confidence in its revamped pitcher development program, and
3. You can get a return better than what Jaime Garcia brought.

I think #3 is the most certain, because Santana is probably a better pitcher than Garcia and his option year gives extra value. #1 will be easy to tell, but not until it happens, but #2 is something that will be known by the FO long before fans see evidence.

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