With Ervin Santana likely signing an expensive, long-term deal out of Kansas City’s price range, and Bruce Chen testing his luck on the free agent market as well, the Royals had a couple rotation spots to fill this winter. After signing veteran Jason Vargas to a long-term, 4 year deal, that left one spot to fill.
Although Ventura seems like a reliable option for the future, the front office may not be ready to trust him to pitch every five days on a season they seem to be going “all-in”. So what are their other options?
Two options stand out: Re-sign Bruce Chen or take a risk and sign the once-upon-a-time ace, Johan Santana.
Bruce Chen has proved to be everything the Royals could use this season during his time in Kansas City. The Royals could use a guy who can be the long reliever, and who could take over a starting role if Ventura looks overmatched. So far, there has been little interest shown by any team in the 36 year-old free agent, who may be seeking a two-year deal.
The Royals’ other option, a little less-likely to happen, but has the potential for a higher reward, is taking a chance on the injury-stricken free agent by the name of Johan Santana. Not many, if any, pitchers have ever made a successful return to the Majors from repairing two torn shoulder capsules. With that being said, he’s still worth the small risk that would have to be taken in order to sign him. What other pitcher on the free agent market has a career 3.20 ERA with an 8.83 K/9 rate and 139 career wins?
I’m not oblivious, Santana won’t return as the Johan of old. It is unlikely he even makes the Major League rotation, but why not take a chance in signing him to a one year minor league deal, and letting him prove himself in Spring Training? He would probably sign for less than $1 million, and at the very least, he’s a good mentor for the Royals young guns.
The 2013 Royals took a chance on Ervin Santana, and he turned out to be the most highly-taught free agent pitcher this next offseason. If Kansas City wants to replace a pitcher like that, they have to sign the one with the most upside – which is Johan Santana.