Santana and Nolasco both got roughly the 4/48m deal from the Twins in free agency.Here's a list of all the pitchers who got bigger deals from 13-16.
In 2013 the big three deals were for Grienke, Edwin Jackson and Anibal Sanchez. Grienke's been great although his contract had an opt out that he used to sign with the Dbacks. Sanchez and Jackson were horrible.Both contracts are now over and they combined for 9 years, about 1000 innings, nearly $125m and 3 WAR.The Cubs and Tigers, of course, could afford that.
In 2014- Tanaka, Garza and Ubaldo Jimenz. Tanaka was a bit special as a FA from Japan and younger than most. The Yankees gave him a 7/155 deal which hasn't been bad so far although this was a bit of down year. Garza, Jiminez and Nolasco all got about the same deal and Nolasco was probably the best of them.
In 2015 Scherzer, Lester and Shields got signed for more than Santana. Lester had two good years but was not good this year and is trending down. He'll be 34 next year and owed 85m over the next three seasons (counting the buy out). Scherzer got a 7/210 deal and has been awesome so far. Shields, 25/year, has been a disaster.
And before the 2016 season the big deals were David Price, Grienke, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman, Jeff Samardzija, Wei-Yin Chen, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy and Scott Kazmir. All nine of those guys got bigger deals than Ervin. Price had a great first year but was injured and feuding with the media and is still owed nearly 160m. Greinke is good. Cueto put up a 93 ERA+ and is injured. Zimmerman was worse than Kyle Gibson this year. He'll be 32 next year and still owed 75m. Shark's been serviceable but he's never been as good as his rep. Chen's been a disaster (Miami would trade him to us for nothing). Leake was already traded for nothing and two teams are dividing his salary. Kazmir missed the entire season and Kennedy sucks.
That's 18 deals and a heck of a lot of misses. Unsurprisingly, older pitchers are worse bets. And the best deals were the absolute most expensive ones as guys like Grienke and Scherzer can command a lot more than Darvish money, and there is no Grienke in this FA class.Pitchers with past injury history or limited innings tended to be bad gambles (and pitchers with good track records of innings and performance were good, until they went bad). And Tanaka, a young arm from Japan, was a different kind of gamble.If the Twins get someone like Alex Cobb at 4/48 and he busts, we can probably work around it. If the Twins get Darvish at 6/150 and he busts, we probably can't.
If the Twins can get someone like Alex Cobb or, even better, trade for a younger pitcher than those eligible for free agency, it would probably be a safer way to improve the rotation.