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February 20, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Whither Santana?

by Daniel Rathman

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Ervin Santana probably won’t land north of the border
Once word leaked that Ubaldo Jimenez was going to become an Oriole, some presumed that the Blue Jays would ante up and reel in the other remaining high-profile free agent starting pitcher. But ESPN’s Jayson Stark has heard from multiple sources that general manager Alex Anthopoulos does not intend to break the bank for Ervin Santana.

Stark wrote on Wednesday that the Blue Jays will come away with Santana only if his asking price falls into the range they have in mind. If agent Bean Stringfellow sticks to his guns, industry sources—both in other organizations and on the player-representation side—don’t believe that the Blue Jays will budge.

The 31-year-old Santana is coming off of a solid year with the Royals during which he kept his home-run troubles in check, bumped his strikeout rate up to 18.7 percent, its highest perch since 2007, and shaved his walk rate down to 5.9 percent, his best showing since 2008. Santana has also been durable over the past few years; his last trip to the disabled list was a three-week stint with a strained triceps in 2009.

Nonetheless, PECOTA—like most teams, apparently—is skeptical that Santana can pitch well enough to warrant a lucrative multi-year contract, leaving aside the draft pick that it would cost to sign him. PECOTA pegs the right-hander as a 0.6 WARP pitcher in 2013, and even padding its 169 2/3-inning projection up to 211 frames, the total Santana attained last year, yields just three-quarters of a win.

That estimate may seem pessimistic, but Santana is also a poor fit for the Blue Jays because the Rogers Centre is the third-most-homer-friendly ballpark in the majors, trailing only Citizens Bank Park and Great American Ball Park. Santana is no longer an extreme fly-ball pitcher—his 46.2 percent ground-ball clip in 2013 marked a career high—but he’s also not a worm-killer, and Toronto’s fly-ball defense ranked in the bottom half of the league last year.

As constructed, the Blue Jays are about a .500 team, and Santana alone won’t transform them into a contender. From that standpoint, Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons might prefer to get a closer look at the pitchers already in the organization to determine which ones might help them in 2015 and beyond. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm pointed out on Monday that many of the arms on Toronto’s 40-man roster are out of options, so adding Santana could mean losing at least one of them before Opening Day.

If the season started today, Gibbons would hand the ball first to R.A. Dickey, and then Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ, and one of Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison, Esmil Rogers, Dustin McGowan, and Todd Redmond. The last three are all out of options.

And that’s not to mention the longest of longshots: knuckleballer Tomo Ohka, who signed a minor-league deal and is in camp as a non-roster invitee this spring.

Mike Scioscia “needs” Raul Ibanez to log defensive innings this year
For most fans, the idea of Raul Ibanez patrolling the outfield or scooping throws at first base is scary, funny, or some combination of both. For manager Mike Scioscia, it appears to be a necessity.

Scioscia told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez) on Wednesday that the Angels can’t simply hide the 42-year-old Ibanez in their designated hitter slot. When one of Kole Calhoun, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, or Mike Trout needs a breather, the former Mariner will be asked to grab his glove and step in.

Ibanez made 100 defensive appearances—all but one of them in left field—for the Mariners in 2013 and racked up -4.2 FRAA. He last put on a first-base glove in a 16-inning game on August 24, 2010. His last start at first base was on May 6, 2005, when Dave Hansen—who joined the Angels as an assistant hitting coach this offseason—was one of his teammates with the Mariners.

Mariners’ Nick Franklin still available in trade talks
When the Mariners were rumored to be making calls about big-name trade targets like David Price and Matt Kemp, the name of one of their young infielders came up time and time again. Nick Franklin, who turns 23 on March 2, was displaced when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano earlier this winter, and his future remains up in the air.

Manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters on Monday that Franklin would compete with Brad Miller to be the team’s primary shortstop, but the switch-hitter is challenged defensively at that position. The first weakness that Jason Parks noted when he wrote Franklin up as the Mariners’ no. 4 prospect before last season: “Doesn’t profile on left side of the infield.”

Franklin is a solid defender at second base, but barring an injury to Cano, that spot won’t be available for a decade. His ability to hit right-handed pitching (.279 TAv in his big-league debut) makes him an intriguing, if limited, utility infielder, but Tacoma News Times beat writer Bob Dutton thinks the club can find a better use for Franklin than stashing him on the bench.

If the Mariners do trade Franklin—ranked by Mark Anderson as their fourth-best asset under age 25—the smart money is on general manager Jack Zduriencik using him to fetch a starting pitcher.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

4 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Greg Ioannou

Interesting that Ricky Romero doesn't even rate a mention among the "longest of long shots." Ouch.

Feb 20, 2014 06:35 AM
rating: 1
 
fawcettb

Neither did Kyle Drabek, who's most likely to end up as the 5th starter.

Feb 20, 2014 06:53 AM
rating: 1
 
smallflowers

Kyle Drabek seems to be of a lock than any other 5th starter option for the Jays, no? Assuming health, naturally.

Feb 20, 2014 06:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Drabek was an oversight; just added him to the list in the article. Thanks.

Feb 20, 2014 07:30 AM
 
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