Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Santana on the Move

This is a short post about a recent offseason move. Since the 2012 MLB season has officially concluded, and the offseason has begun, I will mix in short posts that concern the day-to-day activities going on in Major League Baseball as well as continue to write longer more feature pieces. 

Today the Kansas City Royals, a team that finished 2013 3rd in the AL Central with a 72-90 record, acquired right-handed pitcher Ervin Santana. Santana has played his entire career with the Angels, progressing well from a middle-of-the-rotation starter to a reliable #2 pitcher until last year's abysmal performance. Santana has compiled at least a 2.0 fWAR every season in which he threw at least 200 innings, showing signs that last season may have been an anomaly. Last season, in 178.0 innings pitched, Santana compiled a -0.9 fWAR, a 6.72 K/9, awful 1.97 HR/9, and an FIP of 5.63. Santana’s changeup percentage (the percent of his pitches that were changeups) rose from 3.2% to 7.3%. In addition, his fastball is not rated well, so he relied on his above average slider to get him out of trouble, but the pitch is more of a strikeout pitch meant to make batter miss. Hitters would sit on his slider, and if it was in the zone crush it, as it came in at about 83 mph. Overall, Santana was plagued by not adapting. His walk rate, WHIP, and hits per 9 innings were close to his career average, but his home run rate rose drastically. Santana stopped getting lucky, got hit hard pitching in a very good division in 2012, and could not change his pitching to combat the hitters success.

The Royals were quite obvious in their intentions for the offseason, stating that the starting rotation would be their focus. The team has built a strong young core of hitters including Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas, but needed upgrades in their starting rotations, as a number of young arms haven’t panned out, or took steps back last season. Mike Montgomery cough, cough. In return for Santana, the Angels received left-handed prospect Brandon Sisk. He has developed well in the minors as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen, but might not have won a spot in KC’s pen in 2013. The Angels bullpen was their Achilles’ heel last season, and with so many large contracts to pay out, the Angels welcome a young, cheap lefty meant for relief pitching. For a more detailed scouting report of Sisk, click here.

Santana joins a rotation that included such pitchers as Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Felipe Paulino, and Bruce Chen. This staff combined for a 7.7 fWAR and a 4.59 FIP, making this move a cost-effective way for Dayton Moore and the Royals to upgrade their pitching staff. The common maxim is to buy low and sell high, and the Royals did just that, trading for Santana when his stock couldn’t be any lower. More importantly, in a fairly weak division that saw the no team win 90 games, smaller acquisitions like this might make more of a difference in the long run. Santana will earn $13 million in 2013, which will most likely exceed his worth. The fact that the Royals will most likely overpay Santana is the price they pay for giving up such a minor prospect. It’s possible that Santana may have needed a change in venue to get his career back on track. After signing C.J. Wilson, resigning Jared Weaver, and trading for Zack Greinke, the Angels rotation was stock full of good arms, leaving Santana as “just another pitcher”. Oftentimes this can derail a younger less mature pitcher to not work as hard. Now that Santana will be featured in the front of the Royals rotation, his work ethic, desire, and ability to adjust should improve.

Overall this is a good move for both sides. The Angels free up some money to further improve their bullpen, as well as add a solid young arm at a low cost to compete for a spot in the 2013 pen. The Royals add a proven starter to their rotation and give up very little. This is a better move than trading for Jonathan Sanchez, a move the Royals made last offseason. 

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