At this point, there is only one realistic scenario for pitcher Ervin Santana to return to Kansas City. He will have to decide to sign a one-year contract after Opening Day.
The logic behind such a move lies in the rule that prevents a team from making a qualifying offer for a potential free-agent acquired after the start of the season. To make this move, Santana and his agent would have to decide that he’s better off freeing himself from draft pick compensation and seeking a long-term deal next season.
Then, and only then, does a return to Kansas City make sense.
In that case, the Royals could offer both familiar surroundings, and the chance to pitch in front of the best defensive team in the American League. Money would likely be an issue, since GM Dayton Moore is acting like he’s up against his budget. Cutting C George Kottaras to save a few hundred thousand dollars and his release of utility infielder Emilio Bonifacio before he could resign P Bruce Chen, suggest Moore has very little leeway when it comes to adding salary.
To bring back Ervin Santana, Moore would likely have to deal either Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar. Both are likely to pitch as set-up men (despite being part of the camp competition for the no. 5 slot in the rotation) and both command more than $5 million a piece in salary.
Otherwise, the Kansas City front office has made it clear they think Santana is too risky an investment if he expects a long-term deal.
Ervin Santana has been linked to the Rangers, Mariners, Orioles, and Rockies in the last ten days. Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com reported that Santana is still seeking a 4-year $50 million contract despite still being on the shelf with spring training underway. That’s quite a comedown for someone who went into the off-season with expectations of a $100 million deal. That inflated belief in his own value is what makes me think that Ervin Santana might make the risky decision to free himself from the hindrance of compensation and re-enter the market next season.
To my mind, the chances of Ervin Santana making this move increase the longer teams waffle on signing him. The closer Opening Day comes, and the more Santana’s ego gets bruised, the more likely he is to go for broke.
If such an opportunity were to arise, Dayton Moore would have to seriously consider such a deal. There’s nothing like a motivated player with something to prove in his final year before free agency.