The Baltimore Orioles already bolstered their rotation this week by signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a $50 million contract, but that hasn't kept the club from remaining in contact with the market's other coveted starter, Ervin Santana. The O's have "maintained dialogue" with Santana in the days since bringing Jimenez into the fold, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
In addition to the Orioles, the 31-year-old Santana has drawn interest from a small army of other clubs in the past week or so, including the Indians, Mariners, Rockies, Royals, and Blue Jays. Toronto has all but dropped out of the running over the last couple of days, but everyone else still appears to be involved.
Santana was stellar for the Kansas City Royals in 2013 -- 3.24 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 211 innings -- but his up-and-down past combined with the qualifying offer have worked together to make him this offseason's Kyle Lohse. Given that his market is growing, it's unlikely that he'll remain unsigned through Opening Day, but you get the feeling that teams are having a hard time ignoring the fact that Santana is just a year removed from an atrocious -1.3 WAR season.
Santana isn't the only free agent burdened with draft pick compensation that Baltimore has been linked to recently: the club has also shown interest in Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz. Which of the three they end up going after depends on myriad factors, but it all essentially boils down to how they value the second-round pick (55th overall) and the accompanying slot money they'd have to give up. Is it more worthwhile to surrender that pick for defensive liabilities who will (hopefully) bolster the offense a bit, or for a volatile starting pitcher who will no doubt struggle with home runs in slugger-friendly Camden Yards?
Santana's asking price was through the roof -- i.e. nine figures -- when the offseason started, but that number has come down considerably as the winter's worn on. Both Jimenez and Matt Garza inked four-year, $50 million deals, so it seems unlikely that Santana would be able hold out for anything more than that. Heyman notes that Santana is seeking a deal "in that neighborhood, if not more," so who knows at this point.
The Orioles rotation, as it currently stands, is some combination of Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris. The addition of Santana certainly wouldn't hurt things from a performance standpoint -- it'd likely push Norris to the bullpen, where he could avoid the times-through-the-order penalty that kills him as a starter -- but it could complicate things when/if top prospects Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and/or Eduardo Rodriguez push their way into the picture. And who knows what the club plans to do with Yoon Suk-Min.
Baltimore's gauntlet of a division has not been friendly to Santana in his nine years of big-league ball. The right-hander owns a collective 5.36 ERA and 1.3 HR/9 over 240 innings in AL East parks, including a 6.38 ERA in seven starts at Camden. Small sample size caveats abound here, naturally, but those numbers can't just be ignored.