lukewarm stovePresented for discussion purposes only …

Ken Rosenthal reports that long-time free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana is now angling for a one-year contract, which he hopes to sign before Opening Day. Although the Cubs haven’t been connected to Santana, and aren’t likely to be connected to him now, the change in Santana’s status has led to some splinter conversations in the comments about the Cubs trying to pick up Santana as a “flip” candidate. I figure we might as well centralize those discussions here, and I can offer my own thoughts.

Here are the considerations, most of which weigh against the Cubs signing Santana, even on a one-year deal:

  • Santana, 31, is coming off of his best season in years, posting a 3.24 ERA over 211 innings (3.0 WAR). His FIP was a less sexy 3.93, but his strikeout rate ticked up (18.7%) and his walk rate dropped (5.9%). Prior to 2013, however, Santana had netted a total of 4.6 WAR over four years combined, including a -1.0 year in 2012. In short, he was a guy everyone would be happy to have in their rotation in 2013, but he’s not a guy who should have ever been expecting a $60 million contract, much less the reported $100 million he started out asking for.
  • ZiPS projects a near-average season for Santana in 2014 (4.27 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 2.2 WAR), and PECOTA likes him even less (4.31 ERA, 0.6 WAR).
  • Although the Cubs have a protected pick in this draft, the pick they would lose to sign Santana (a second rounder in the 45 range) is actually a bit higher than the pick that would be lost by interested teams such as the Blue Jays (50), Orioles (91), or Yankees (56).
  • Because the Cubs don’t project to be a playoff-caliber team in 2014, Santana offers more value – in terms of incremental wins – to a projected playoff contender than he does to the Cubs. In a perfect market, that means there should be *many* more teams (correctly) willing to pay more money for Santana, even on a one-year deal, than the Cubs.
  • Losing a second round pick to sign a flip guy like Santana isn’t actually a huge burden when you consider that, for example, the Cubs flipped Scott Feldman (in essence) for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop last year, which is clearly more value than an early second round pick.
  • But, keep in mind about that comparison: although Santana’s ceiling performance is probably higher than Feldman’s, the Cubs made that trade after Feldman had already performed excellently, and after he had already stayed healthy for the first half. Saying that it’s a simple as comparing the value of a second round pick and the value Feldman (or Maholm or Garza or whomever) netted the Cubs is inaccurate. You have to compare those things while still accounting for the risk of injury and ineffectiveness (and also the higher salary for Santana).
  • In other words, signing Santana makes sense for the Cubs only if the value in flip so dramatically outweighs the value of the second round pick (and pool money) that it’s worth the risk of injury or ineffectiveness. Given Santana’s age (31), previous arm issues, ugly projections, and somewhat hollow “great” year in 2013, I’m not particularly comfortable with that risk, myself.
  • Throw in the fact that, if the Cubs added Santana, Arrieta is bounced from the rotation (because none of Samardzija, Jackson, Wood, or Hammel are getting sent to the pen), and I’d like the move even less. In a punted year, I’d really like to see what the Cubs have in Arrieta – that could have more long-term value than whatever they might pick up for Santana.
  • All that said, if Santana were forced to take a Nelson Cruz deal ($8 million, one year), then I suppose I wouldn’t hate it for the Cubs. I just don’t see that happening, at least not with the Cubs. The only upside the Cubs can offer someone like Santana is that, if he pitches well, he’s a virtual lock to be traded midseason, making him ineligible for draft pick compensation after the season. But he’s not going to leave real money on the table for that chance.
  • Johnny Chess

    Santana put the 14 mil number out there so that any team willing to pay it gets him. I believe 8 mil to 10 mil more realistic.

  • Johnny Chess

    Stop with the punted year stuff. The Cubs are capable of winning also. If all the players play at or above their expectations anything can happen. All it takes is Rizzo 1st Castro to 2nd Baez to SS Olt to 3rd Platooned outfield and overachieving rotation.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The expectation for most of the Cubs position players is below league average. Basically, Castro, Rizzo and Castillo are the exceptions from position players, and Shark for pitchers. That means that we need well above expectations from LF, CF, RF, 3B and 2B, as well as from the #4 and #5 starters.

      That’s not 4th and long: that’s game over!

      • DarthHater

        Negative Nancybot! 😛

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The negative bots are convinced the Castro is permanently ruined, that Rizzo’s low BABiP last year was “real” and that Shark is an egomaniacal clubhouse cancer who should cut his hair and just be glad that he has a job…..

          • woody

            Who knows Doc maybe they are right.

          • woody

            I posted yesterday that I thought that maybe Shark was on an ego trip and ruffled some feathers with another poster. In Castro’s case he has enough of a track record to hope that last season was just an outlier. In Rizzo’s case there is only his partial rookie season to go by. There is a possibility that opposing teams have identified a weakness in Rizzo’s approach and that he needs to adjust. It will be interesting to see what happens.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              If teams had identified a weakness in Rizzo’s approach, then we would have seen some combination of a decrease in slugging, a decrease in walks and/or a marked increase in K’s. We didn’t see those. What we saw instead was a decreased proportion of poorly-OK hit balls getting through for singles.

              We know Castro’s story: they deliberately had him look at more pitches in the hope that seeing more pitches would help him develop better pitch recognition. There is no known way for players to work on this: the only time batters see real pitching is in games, after all. The problem was that the league quickly caught on to this, and all it created was an increase in K’s and a decrease in walks. However, once Castro swung, his well-hit ball frequency was the same as ever: he was just starting with a two strikes on him all the time, which meant that he was swinging a lot less.

              As for any aspect of player’s personality (Shark or otherwise), there is no point in speculating. People will read actions and statements anyway they want to do, depending on whether they like the guy. Sports fans credit themselves with powers of insight that FBI profilers do not claim to have!

              • cavemancubbie

                Do we have any idea of the causative reasons for the decreased proportion of balls getting through for singles, Doc? Was it a defensive shift which Rizzo could not take advantage of?

                • Luke

                  If you look at his spray charts (link below), Rizzo hit a lot of his singles to the infield on the right side. It would seem likely that if there is a runner on first, the first baseman would need to play closer to the bag thus opening up a hole where Rizzo tended to single.

                  Without a runner on base (and the Cubs were terrible at putting runners on base last year), the first baseman can play further out and space Rizzo has in which to drop a single is reduced.

                  Now… can we prove that was a factor statistically? Maybe. It is worth noting that Rizzo had a wOBA of .351 with men on base as opposed to .303 with bases empty.

                  • Luke

                    And I up and forgot the link to the spray chart.

                    Here you go.


                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    The other thing is that the variance between expected BABiP (based on proportions of grounders, liners, flyballs, etc.) and observed BABiP itself is *huge* relative to BABiP. Looking at 2012 data, the SD on (xBABiP-BABiP) was 0.05.

                    That means that it would take years of data to really show that someone is deviating significantly (one way or the other) from the BABiP expected given the distribution of batted balls.

                    • Joshua Edwards

                      I don’t know the statistics as well as you guys, but earlier you mentioned that teams seemed not to find a weakness in his approach, at least none reflected in a few stat categories.

                      And maybe it’s just anecdotal evidence, but I watched Rizzo hit that weak grounder to the right so many times I came to believe teams certainly had found a hole in his swing and/or approach that took advantage of it.

                      Perhaps it didn’t reflect in the categories you mention, but it seems like it could still be a weakness. I know historically his Babip indicates this was a low year, but maybe the rest of the league is just figuring out a more effective approach? Something he struggles to compensate for?

                      I mean, if I were pitching, I’d stay low and in all day and take my chances.

                      Is there some other data to help us discern what’s going on with all those rollers to 1B?

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      If teams could do this, then we would see it happen all the time to lots of different players. The fact that we don’t see it suggests that teams cannot do this.

                      A likely and probable explanation is that no hitter is so precise in his hitting that this can work.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “Do we have any idea of the causative reasons for the decreased proportion of balls getting through for singles”

                  It’s amusing watching people squirm and dig for data to explain Rizzo’s babip

    • hansman

      It’s kinda too late for that this year.

  • nkniacc13

    If its Toronto then that’s one less place to move Shark

    • gocatsgo2003

      I don’t think a team would let one half-year of Ervin Santana preclude at least a year and a half of control over Samardjiza.

  • Tommy

    Wow, there is zero reason not to sign a guy like this to a 1 year deal! Nothing to lose, and it’s not like we have the deepest starting staff in baseball!

    • gocatsgo2003

      Except, like, a second-round pick and the pool money, $8-10 million, forfeiture of the chance to let Arrieta or someone like that take a full season in the rotation, etc.?

      • CubbiesOHCubbies

        Not sure where you think a second round pick has a slot value of 8-10 million but it’s more like 1.1-1.3 million. Kris Bryant had a slot just under 7 million or so and he was number two overall. You think a second rounder is worth more?

        • bbmoney

          I don’t think that’s what gocats was saying.

        • gocatsgo2003

          Except you can’t de-link the prospect from the pool money. The Cubs’ second-round pick last year was Zastryzny (who seems to be generally regarded as a very solid prospect) while the fourth selection in 2013’s second round was Ryan Eades, a relatively low-upside/high-ceiling starter from LSU. Throw in the fact that the pick will likely be worth just north of $1.3MM (it was $1,294,100) last year, and my guess is that prospect + pool money > one year of Ervin Santana.

  • Kyle

    As long as we sign him before Opening Day, I think we could also QO him at the end of the year and get a supplemental first.

    I can see the arguments either way. I wouldn’t mind doing it because I don’t see a lot of interestingness in Arrieta as a starter.

    • gocatsgo2003

      …except if Santana gets a QO at the end of 2014, he would say “yes, please” and we would instead have another year of Ervin Santana instead of a supplemental first round pick.

      • Kyle

        I don’t think he necessarily would. But regardless, I think he’d want an under-the-table agreement (illegal under the CBA but that rule is completely unenforcable) that the signing team wouldn’t QO him.

        • gocatsgo2003

          As a 32-year old with the history of injuries and spotty performances Brett outlined above, do you think Santana would turn down a one-year deal in the range of $15MM? I don’t think he would.

  • Jason P

    If Santana had real money on the table, I think he would have already taken it. We’re getting to the point where he’d probably have to sign within the next week to be ready for the start of the season.

    If that report that Santana has now lowered his demands to a one year offer is accurate, I think the Cubs should jump at the opportunity. Although his career has been inconsistent, if you factor out the outliers — 2008, when he was worth 6 WAR and 2012 when he was worth -1 — he’s been about a 2 win pitcher annually. Essentially, a decent #3 starter.

    I don’t see losing the pick as being a major deterrent. There is such a large gap between the value of Strop/Arrieta and the value of a guy like Zastryzny that the return doesn’t need to be quite as strong as it was in the Feldman trade for this to still be a move worth making. Even if Santana’s ERA is in the mid-4’s at the deadline, they should still be able to get pretty good value in a trade. Last year, the D-Backs got a quality set-up man, a top-15 prospect in their system *and* a compensatory round B pick for Ian Kennedy, whose ERA was 5.23 (!) at the time.

    Jake Arrieta could then be moved to the bullpen and forced to earn his starting spot. If he is successful, the move doesn’t have to be permanent.

    Santana also makes the Cubs a better team in 2014, improving their chances slightly of surprising, which would have all sorts of financial benefits even if it’s not sustained throughout the entire year.

  • Kyle

    He’s going to the Blue Jays. No Samardzija market seems to be emerging for now.

    • YourResidentJag

      Which makes 2015 a critical season to win with Shark…as the market seems to be dead and I don’t think the offers will be all that great come deadline time.

    • YourResidentJag

      Looks like it’s a decision between Jays and Orioles.

  • Bret Epic
    • Jason P


  • NorthSideIrish

    Per @Enrique_Rojas1, Ervin Santana will sign 1-yr, $14M deal with the Blue Jays if he doesn’t get a better offer by 5pm.

    Clearly he’s excited to be signing with Toronto…

  • Assman22

    Santana says AL only…it’s a shame considering his success vs NL…67.2 IP, 57 K’s, 14 BB, 1.12 WHIP, 3.46 ERA, 4-2 record, etc in past two seasons…

    • CubFan Paul

      Even a two year deal makes sense for the Cubs

  • DarthHater


  • Funn Dave

    I’m glad the Cubs passed on Ervin. There’s just no reason to believe that he’d perform enough above his normal average-ness to be worth a decent trade midseason.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Anyone else think Schierholtz is as good as gone at the trade deadline? No way Cubs are going to offer him a qualifying offer and if he performs at the same level as next year we should theoretically be able to get a decent prospect for him depending on the market at the deadline

    • Kyle

      It seems probable, yes.

  • Fastball

    I don’t know about our starting rotation. I think Jackson will suck, Woodie will be good, Shark isn’t anywhere near what he thinks he is or Theo hopes he will be :( Arrieta and Hammels are glass half full or empty take your pick. Maybe the BP is better. Well I will say it is better as compared to last years. But still league average at best unless Vizcaino and a few other emerge as studs. Out starting rotation could surprise but in my opinion outside of Woodie being a good 3 or 4 the rest better have their shit together early and often. If Renteria plays platoons smartly and has any smarts about him on when to get the hook out and yank pitchers at the right time we can do really much better than many think. But if henrunsnthe same guys out there everyday and is as bad as Sveum at leaving guys in too long we are mgonna have a very long season. It’s going to be interesting to watch early on. I would have my hook ready and it would become known that if you don’t pitch well you won’t be out there long.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    “is as bad as Sveum at leaving guys in too long we are mgonna have a very long season”

    Except, of course, that a lot of people thought that Sveum’s problem that he pulled starters too soon in favor of BP-level relief pitching!

    As for Shark being as good as “he thinks he is,” what does he think that he is? At any rate, Shark had the 12th best xFIP in the NL last year. Basically, if you picked him up and randomly dropped him on any NL team, he’d probably be the #2 starter; he’d the be the #3 starter on only two teams (Phils & Dodgers), and the #1 starter on 6 teams.

    How much better than that do you think that Shark misperceives himself? How much worse than that do you misperceive him?

    • Fastball

      I just think he is thrower. He strings a lot games that are good and then does the same where he isn’t. I know they guy is confident and he better be. I am not a fan of his for the most part. I would like him more if he was consistent throughout the season. I don’t think he is a 2 on very many teams. There are a lot of pitchers in baseball that are 2’s in there rotation that I would pick if was putting a rotation together. But that’s just my personal opinion of the guy. I hope he makes me change my opinion of him. I’m pretty open minded. To this point in his career he hasn’t proven himself enough to not sit down with Theo and work out a deal. Sometimes I think Theo isn’t sold on him either and that’s why there hasn’t been progress on an extension. Who knows. Personally I hope he throws well enough to bring a good return at the deadline. I don’t seenTheo building around him as much as he can build off of him in a trade.

  • woody

    From what I have gathered from reading multiple articles is that Shark isn’t giving in on his salary demands. I guess he intends to prove that soon. My opinion is that a little dose of humility might serve him well. He might learn from a guy like Travis Wood that just goes about his business without basking in the lime light. I have my doubts if he is a guy you want around the clubhouse to influence the young guys coming up. Remember during the winter he said he didn’t like the R word? And he was rather vocal about Theo flipping guys last year. The fact that he’s dragging this extention thing along and helping to create all of the hype is not in the best interest of the ballclub. He has created a legend in his own mind that isn’t supported by facts. Now that Santana has signed with Toronto I just don’t know who would swing a deal for him now. But for me he’s a guy who wants to negociate and be paid for something that he might do at a future date. That is a non-starter for me.

    • Fastball

      You pretty much covered how I feel about him. I’m old school on a lot of things. I like philosophy. Put up and shut up. That approach will garner a lot more respect.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Humility is another great phlogiston of sports. The reason why we are not hearing anything from Wood is that: 1) he’s under team control for at least one more year than is Shark; 2) Wood’s raw pitching numbers simply are nowhere near as good as Shark’s are. I.e., there is no story here.

      Shark is one of the better potential FA pitchers that might be available after 2015. That might seem a long ways off, but as we have seen, the FA market has been very thin for starting pitching in recent years. We are not the only fan base cringing every time another under-30 (or even under-32) starter signs an extension with his current team: the baseball world is watching Shark for that reason. It isn’t watching Wood.

      So, don’t blame Shark if the limelight is on him: there is absolutely no way that it wouldn’t be right now.

  • Patrick G

    If shark was traded before opening day I would definitely consider it. If they got a good haul for him, he would be replaced by Santana, who in theory would be traded for more prospects. Very unlikely since the season starts in 2-3 weeks but never know

    • woody

      Patrick from what I have heard Santana was signed by Toronto who were the odds on favorites to trade for Shark. IMO nothing is going to happen untill July.

  • Fastball

    I think Santana is a Blue Jay now.

    If we could have signed him and flipped him along with trading Shark it would have been another huge mid season haul for the Cubbies. Those two guys would have brought back 4 – 6 really good prospects and moved the rebuild that much further along with the draft.

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      I was hoping he’d sign with the Orioles instead of the angles bc Samardzija’s a better fit with the Orioles

    • DarthHater

      From MLBTR:

      6:26pm: Santana continues to consider offers from the Orioles and the Jays, ESPN’s Enrique Rojas tweets, noting that two other clubs had expressed interest this afternoon (Spanish link).

      4:08pm: FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets that a source tells him that Santana could wait “days” before signing. 4:00 has come and gone, and there’s no news about his decision.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Given complete game pitchers left with the dinosaurs it would make more sense to groom long relief pitchers who are able to come in 3-4 games a week and give 4-5 quality innings each outing- can only do that prep in the minors