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March 10, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Santana Signing Soon?

by Daniel Rathman

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Ervin Santana might be in a rush to sign; or, maybe not
FOX Sports baseball insiders Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi got some conflicting information over the weekend. Rosenthal heard that Ervin Santana was itching to join a club and could settle for a one-year deal to get down to spring training as soon as possible. Morosi, on the other hand, was told that Santana might “wait days” before accepting an offer.

Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes had more concrete news on the Santana front: He wrote on Saturday that the right-hander has two offers on the table that would essentially match the qualifying offer from the Royals that Santana rejected last fall. The Blue Jays would hand him $14 million for the 2014 season, while the Orioles’ bid was at $13 million with incentives that could at least bump the value up to the $14.1 million paycheck he turned down.

If Santana is in fact willing to accept a one-year deal, he’s likely to come to a decision soon. There’s no obvious reason to wait, because the longer he stays on the market, the less regular-season work he’ll get.

One source of trouble for Santana, though, is that neither Baltimore nor Toronto is an ideal destination for a fly-ball pitcher hoping to turn in a strong year before giving free agency another try. Both were among the top four parks for home run hitters last year, and neither club was good at preventing fly balls that stayed in its yard from dropping or doing damage. The Orioles allowed the league’s fifth-highest BABIP on fly balls (.119) while the Blue Jays came in with the 13th-worst mark (.098); the two teams allowed the highest (.622) and third-highest (.600) SLG on flies. Santana’s previous employer, the Royals, were above average (.093 BABIP compared to .096) at fielding flies and offered a pitcher-friendly environment.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman added on Saturday that a senior-circuit team is involved in the Santana bidding, along with the American League East rivals. The Rockies were previously connected to the righty when Jhoulys Chacin was undergoing tests for a shoulder injury, but Denver Post beat writer Troy E. Renck followed up less than two hours after Heyman’s report with word that Santana won’t be coming to Colorado.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe added an interesting note that might be relevant if Santana ends up inking a multi-year pact. He was told that clubs are concerned about the righty’s elbow, which flared up in 2009 (sprained UCL) but has been healthy for the past few years. Teams might be more willing to meet Santana’s asking price if he accepts a contract similar to the one that John Lackey signed with the Red Sox, with a club option at the league-minimum salary that would kick in if he undergoes Tommy John surgery. Lackey went under the knife in November 2011, after his second year in Boston, thereby activating the clause in his deal for 2015.

Shane Victorino could give up switch-hitting
A little more than a month ago, Ben Lindbergh wrote about switch-hitters whose platoon splits suggested that they might be better off sticking to one batter’s box. One of those players, Shane Victorino, provided a test case last year, when a hamstring injury relegated him to the right side—with promising results.

The 33-year-old outfielder posted a .300/.386/.510 triple-slash line in 115 plate appearances batting right-on-right, which surpassed his showing against left-handed pitchers (.314/.370/.491) and trumped his OPS from the left side by 190 points. But, as Ben pointed out, that effort came in a small body of work, and the numbers were buoyed by 11 plunkings and a .348 BABIP, 50 points higher than Victorino’s mark versus southpaws.

Those caveats notwithstanding, Victorino is considering becoming exclusively a right-handed hitter. Manager John Farrell leaked that news to reporters on Saturday, though Tim Britton, the Red Sox beat writer for the Providence Journal, noted that Victorino has not yet made a final decision.

Victorino is expected to bat leadoff at least part of the time for the Red Sox this season after spending the bulk of the 2013 campaign in the two-hole behind Jacoby Ellsbury. Daniel Nava and newcomer Grady Sizemore could also see time atop the lineup, based on Farrell’s weekend comments.

White Sox could trade Alejandro De Aza or Dayan Viciedo
After bringing in Avisail Garcia from the Tigers in the July trade that sent Jose Iglesias to Detroit and Jake Peavy to Boston, and Adam Eaton in three-way swap with the Diamondbacks and Angels, the White Sox have a minor outfield glut. If the right offer comes along, they might resolve it in the coming weeks.

Bruce Levine, who covers the White Sox for CBS Chicago, heard from “several major-league sources” that the Mariners have phoned general manager Rick Hahn about Viciedo. Levine added that two of Seattle’s top talent evaluators were at the ChiSox’ spring training game against the Mariners to watch Viciedo, who compiled a .259 TAv in 473 plate appearances while battling myriad injuries last year. Hahn is not actively soliciting offers on Viciedo, who turns 25 today, but he is open to trading him.

It’s unclear how Viciedo would fit in Seattle, though, because the Mariners already have a plethora of corner players and no obvious center fielder. Early spring training lineups and results suggest that Abraham Almonte is in the driver’s seat to play up the middle, with some combination of Dustin Ackley, Corey Hart, and Michael Saunders flanking him in left and right. That leaves Justin Smoak at first base and Logan Morrison as the primary designated hitter, with Jesus Montero on the outside looking in. Adding Viciedo would bump one more player from manager Lloyd McClendon’s lineup—or pave Saunders’ way out of Seattle, according to Jason Churchill of 1090 AM The Fan.

With two years and 123 days of service time, Viciedo is a Super Two player this year, and the White Sox agreed to a $2.8 million salary with agent Scott Boras. That’s the same amount that Viciedo took home last year, the first season after his four-year, $10 million amateur contract expired.

The other weekend rumor out of the South Side of Chicago surrounds De Aza, who—per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe—is attracting attention from the Twins. A three-win player in 2013, the 29-year-old De Aza (projected for 2.2 WARP in 2014) would likely give Minnesota an upgrade over incumbent center fielder Alex Presley, though PECOTA is bullish about the former Pirate (1.6 WARP).

De Aza is entering his second arbitration year, with $4.25 million coming his way. That’s a steep price for a non-contender to pay a fourth outfielder, so if the White Sox roll with Viciedo in left, Eaton in center, and Garcia in right, De Aza would become expendable.

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

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