Just hours after Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal circulated a rumor that Ervin Santana might be switching agents, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes reported that Santana had, indeed, fired the Proformance agency.
Source: Ervin Santana has fired Bean Stringfellow as his agent
— Dionisio Soldevila (@dSoldevila) March 7, 2014
Ballplayers frequently switch agents to help land bigger contracts in their free agency and some switch out of frustration, although that part is rarely made public (unless it comes from the enigmatic Zack Greinke). This was almost certainly out of frustration.
Ervin Santana is the last top-tier pitcher left shriveling on the vine in the free agent market. Several circumstances have led to teams backing away from tendering him a contract and his agency certainly hasn’t helped. Proformance has had difficulty persuading clubs that Santana will meet the value of his unabashedly bold price tag.
Santana had plenty of reason to fire his former agency. They originally sought an irresponsibly unrealistic $112 million contract at the beginning of the off-season. His most active advocate from Proformance, Jay Alou, began alienating fans and ballclubs. He began spreading rumors that were later contradicted. At one point, Alou went as far as to rail against the Royals on Twitter before deleting his tweets. He even tried to make it seem like there were no problems as his agency was being fired (seen below)
@Ken_Rosenthal Ervin Santana is still represented by the same person that he first signed with 15 years ago. No change
— Jay Alou (@JAloujr) March 7, 2014
Earlier this year, teams began backing away and openly admitting that they had ceased negotiations with his agency.
Proformance was still seeking $8-$10 million more than his expected market price as recently as January. According to Jon Heyman, that gap in perceived value never reconciled between the agency and ball clubs.
Proformance, and its agents, Bean Stringfellow and Jay Alou, refused to acknowledge the concerns teams had about Santana and continued to press for an outrageous sum of money. Perhaps they thought teams were voicing concerns as a negotiating tactic. If that’s the case, they gravely miscalculated.
The Royals made Santana a qualifying offer, ensuring that any team signing him would lose a draft pick. Teams have been coveting draft picks of late, especially now, because this draft class is the strongest since 2011.
Homegrown ballplayers are key to an efficient path toward building a Major League ball club’s core and teams are only willing to give up those picks if absolutely necessary. It has been a thorn in the side of many free agents. Nelson Cruz sought a multi-year deal, but ended up signing with the Baltimore Orioles for one year and $8 million. Kendrys Morales, who has a career 120 OPS+, is still looking for a job.
Ervin Santana also has an injury history. He suffered a sprain to the ulnar collateral ligament of his elbow (UCL) in 2009 and has occasionally suffered subsequent soreness and inflammation. It is the same injury that recently sidelined Royals set-up man, Luke Hochevar, and the same injury that often leads to dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Danny Duffy managed to pitch for years before that ligament finally sustained a significant tear, which forced him into the operating room. It’s possible that, even though Santana’s medicals checked out last season, the time bomb in his elbow is about to go off.
As the season grew nearer and Ervin Santana remained unsigned, he must have realized that it wasn’t the ball clubs undercutting his value and skimping on costs. It was his agents, unwilling to bend their expectations to the realities of the free agent market, who were keeping him unemployed. After witnessing too many stalled negotiations that kept him uncomfortably unemployed, even after the start of Spring Training, Erv fired his team.
This is good news for the Royals. Even though the Royals have given up on signing Santana, without his agents negotiating like ravenous hyenas, there is a chance that Santana will sign with another team and return a draft pick to the Royals. Santana is currently in talks with the Blue Jays, Mariners, Orioles, Rangers and Rockies, leaving him plenty of options.
Update: It appears that Erv hasn’t fired the entire agency, just Bean Stringfellow. He is still represented by Jay Alou of Proformance.
Dayton Moore spoke with Ervin Santana’s agent today, and says there’s still not a fit. But he did say Jay Alou is repping Santana.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) March 7, 2014