Sep 14, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) walks off the field after being relieved in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Postmortem: Ervin Santana Was Here

One could argue – albeit in a sarcastic kind of way – Brandon Sisk was the Royals MVP in 2013.

Sisk was the man traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in California United States of America Northwestern hemisphere Planet Earth on Halloween for Ervin Santana. Santana ended up being spooky good for the Royals. (Sorry for the pun.)

One would have a tough time imagining the Royals being very good this season without the gift Santana was to the rotation. The 2012 version of the Royals lacked any sort of depth in the rotation and had nothing they could call a “number one” or “number two” starter without hearing snickers from knowledgable baseball people. James Shields in tandem with Santana rectified that problem.

In 32 starts, Santana had a 3.24 ERA, 1.142 WHIP to go with an 18.7% strikeout percentage and 5.9% walk percentage. The existence of Santana meant Luke Hochevar was bumped from the rotation, which immediately made the Royals better.

How much better? By Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, the Royals added four wins from last season by replacing Hochevar with Santana (2012 Hochevar: -1.3 WAR; 2013 Santana: 2.7 WAR).*

*Fangraphs is less enthusiastic about the switch, valuing the replacement at 1.6 wins. By Fangraphs’ valuation of WAR, Hochevar earned a 1.4 WAR in 2012 and Santana 3 WAR this season.

Depending on your view of the Royals spending $12 million to employ Santana this season, the Sisk-for-Santana deal was one of the more valuable acquisitions from last winter in all of baseball. The question now is whether or not the Royals should double-down on their bet.

While the Royals enter the winter with less turmoil in their rotation than last year, Kansas City still has some significant questions to answer. Santana, along with Bruce Chen, are free agents, and are entering a market flooded with new television money. Additionally, the free agent pickings amongst starting pitchers are pretty slim. One could make the case Santana is the second best pitcher available this offseason, if not the best. This means re-signing Santana is going to cost well north of the $13 million (LAA paid $1 million of it this year) Santana made in 2013.

Do the Royals want to pay that much money over several years to a pitcher who will be 31-years-old this December?

Ponder that question while also considering that the Royals have few equivalent options to replace him with in the rotation. Shields and Jeremy Guthrie are locks for the 2014 rotation, but after that things get dicey. Danny Duffy will be in the rotation but no one knows what he will be like as he has never pitched a full season in the big leagues. Yordano Ventura is an unknown as a rookie even though he has great upside; Felipe Paulino is good when he is healthy, but he is rarely healthy; Wade Davis was a disaster in the rotation; and Luis Mendoza struggled this year with a tired arm.

Having the known quantities of Shields, Santana, and Guthrie would help reduce the burden of the unknowns that will exist at the back of the rotation. It would also provide added depth if there were to be an injury or consistent poor performance.

But, again, how appealing does a five-year, $80 million deal sound for a 31-year-0ld? And that’s probably a low estimate.

The wise move may be to let Santana walk, which is going to be a real killer to the Royals twitter feed.

Tags: Ervin Santana Kansas City Royals

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