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What Are The Twins Waiting For On Santana?

Posted by Off The Baggy , 05 January 2017 · 1,181 views

The Major League Baseball offseason is now well into the heart of winter. Multiple big name free agents have been signed, and a handful of large trade chips have been moved. For the Minnesota Twins, the talk has been all about Brian Dozier and a potential fit with the Los Angeles Dodgers. What's worth wondering though is why the club hasn't shopped Ervin Santana more.

Entering 2017, Santana will be 34 years old, and still have two years left on his contract (as well as a 2019 team option). He's coming off a season in which he posted his best ERA since 2013, and was nothing short of dominant for stretches during the year. Over his final 18 starts, he tallied a 2.41 ERA and allowed opposing hitters just a .589 OPS against him. For the Twins, Santana represented an ace.

The unfortunate reality however is that Minnesota still lost a franchise worst 103 games. Santana was only given enough run support to record a 7-11 win/loss record over his 30 starts, and in the grand scheme of the season, his strong year did little to elevate the club to any new heights. To summarize, Paul Molitor's club lost consistently despite Santana's efforts.

On the mound, his numbers were backed by physical prowess as well. His 92.7 mph average fastball velocity was the hardest he has thrown since 2008 with the Angels. The Dominican native was generating over a 10% swinging strike rate for just the fourth time in his career, and he was allowing one of the lowest contact rates of his big league tenure at 78.8%. Again, despite the Twins not seeing any success, the opposite was true with Ervin Santana.

Now the idea on dealing Brian Dozier is that he's a luxury for the Twins. They aren't in a position to make a playoff run any time in the immediate future, and Dozier is coming off a great season in which he should command a nice return. If the Twins are looking to accumulate talent, trading a player like Dozier at this point in time is exactly how you do it. What's interesting is that many of the same principles apply to Ervin Santana.

Sure, Santana is just under five years older than Minnesota's second basemen. He also is owed at least $28 million over the next three years as opposed to Dozier's $15 million. What Santana does have going for him though is a market void of pitching options, and teams starving for them. This offseason, Rich Hill was given just shy of $50 million after spending part of 2015 pitching in Indy Ball. One rule is always true, teams will pay for pitching and even moreso when there is little to be had.

It's possible, though rather unlikely, that the Twins make the playoffs in the next two seasons. They don't have the pieces to make a deep run, and Ervin Santana doesn't push the envelope significantly farther than the position the club would be in without him. That brings us to what should be a realization that he's an expendable asset. While Minnesota doesn't have pitching on its own, flipping Santana for a prospect or two that pairs with the timeline of the club's ability to compete makes a lot of sense.

You can make the argument that Santana may have value around the July trade deadline with the Twins having paid more of his contract. However, he's coming off his best performance in years, and any steps backwards could negate the monetary gain. If I'm the Twins, I'd be equally as aggressive in shopping Santana as they have been on Dozier, obviously knowing the return will be different.

When you don't have pitching it's tough to compete, but hanging onto depreciating assets to create the illusion you have pieces doesn't make a ton of sense either. Minnesota would be best served to get something back for Santana before it's too late.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz




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South Dakota Tom
Jan 05 2017 02:56 PM

OTB, I think the arguments against moving Santana as aggressively are two-fold:

 

1.With Dozier, we have another second baseman (Polanco) who could slide into that spot.Perhaps that represents a decline in production (and from a 40 HR guy, how could it not?), but it does unplug a situation where Polanco is playing out of position at SS and we still want his bat in the lineup while playing someone at SS who would be an improvement over Polanco defensively.

 

With Santana, we don't have an abundance of pitchers who could move into that position without a fairly gigantic loss of production. 

 

2.The second argument dovetails into the first, but essentially, we are looking to move Dozier in order to improve our pitching by getting 2+ pitchers who are almost MLB ready to steady the rotation.It is clear that finding two new starters will help this club far more than the drop-off in production from Dozier to Polanco.

 

With moving Santana, the opposite is true.Even if we get pitching back for him (which would be wise, targeting another AA/AAA pitcher with upside to coincide with the arrival of others), we can't argue that we've improved the team for 2017.There is a very, very determined effort by the front office not to state publicly that we are giving up on 2017 (though a great number of posts all over this site talk about "the Twins are not going to compete in 2017/2018").

 

Should the team receive two or more players who can slot into starting roles in the near future for Dozier makes sense to the average fan.Getting a AA starter with upside to replace our best pitcher is a much harder sell to fans who just want to see their team be good this year.Seems clear to me that they can't sell that notion to the fans, so won't be able to move Santana until the team is out of it.Let's just hope that he's playing well and still brings back a pitcher with upside and an eta of 2017/2018 in return.

    • Lee-The-Twins-Fan likes this

At this point, you hope Santana will be a valuable trading chip in the mid-season, when teams are looking for an experienced pitcher and may trade 2-3 prospects for such a talent, especially one controllable thru 2019 at a decent salary amidst his age.

 

He also could be a viable candidate to be traded out of spring training, but then the Twins are basically looking at guys that teams will be shredding from their 40-man or system, possibly...and the Twins would be stuck with having to carry the guy on their own 40-man with no demotion in sight (think Humber, Pelfrey or Worley as examples of guys you don't need back in a trade package).

 

Then, again, the Twins do have time on their side, so they could stand to gamble on a guy finding his arm, but still.....

 

The tought part is gauging how the team will ultimately playout next year. Strikeouts need to be addressed. Line-up construction, too. Mauer still #3, or can Dozier or Kepler fit into that mold, but where does Joe go. Who's at the top. Polanco and Buxton? How mush teeth gnashing will we experience at the Twins fail to score enough runs to even make a quality start look good with a loss.

 

Do they need Santana? Probably not. They also don't need Hughes, who might not start the season. They also have Perkins as an arm without a place in a bullpen that is full of holes. Go figure. It is a mess. Better to just jettison those old vets for something that is promising and far from major league ready, or see them sink as the team treads water in 2017.

 

If we knew for a fact that salary saved would be spent down the line, the Twins would look great heading towards 2020. But just because you get rid of vets and save money now doesn't mean ownership will overspend when the time comes.

 

I sure would like to know the Twins promotional Plan for 2017. "Buy a Ticket and sit in a Non-Obstructed Seat. Hang your legs over. Use the space behind you to put your food! Your chair at a great outdoors picnic is awaiting you now!"

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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Jan 05 2017 05:02 PM

I don't believe the Twins will trade Ervin Santana. They need him to pitch every fifth game to at least give them a chance to win fairly consistently. 

 

Even if Dozier is kept, the Twins will be better in 2017. Our youngsters (Buxton, Sano, Kepler, Polanco and others) will be better. I believe the management is addressing the pitching problem, but they have to wait until the know whether the Dodgers will offer the pieces they want. Sure the Twins would like to trade Dozier for MLB-ready pitching, and it would make the team better, but they should never undersell him. If the Dodgers are only offering De Leon, then the Twins should walk away. They need two MLB-ready (or near-ready) pitchers plus one or two prospects for Dozier. That's what he's worth. De Leon, Stewart, Alvarez and one other would be my price. 

 

But I'm not the Twins' brass.

    • Homer Hanky likes this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Jan 05 2017 05:03 PM

Sorry – I guess I got off topic.

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diehardtwinsfan
Jan 09 2017 06:35 PM

I think once Dozier lands, the Twins can decide what to do with Santana. I'd argue that if BD goes to LA for De Leon and Stewart, then all of a sudden, there's a glut in the rotation and Ervin gets shipped off for a top 100 prospect and one or two more lotto tickets.But until they know what the return is, Ervin has to wait.