Royals General Manager Dayton Moore likes to strike early, and this offseason is no exception. To help bolster the rotation, the Royals acquired right-handed starter Ervin Santana, 29, and $1MM cash from the Los Angeles Angels for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk, 27. The Royals will likely pay Santana $13MM for 2013.
So what are the Royals getting for $13MM? In 2012, Santana had a 5.16 ERA with a 9-13 record over 30 starts and 178.0 innings pitched. He had a 6.7 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 2.18 SO/BB ratio and gave up 2.0 HR/9. His WAR was -1.6. Of the five Angels starters, Santana had the worst ERA, had the least amount of SO/9, gave up the most home runs in the league at 39, and had the worst WAR among Angels starters.
That doesn’t sound good, but Santana’s ERA was lower than Bruce Chen, Will Smith and Luke Hochevar (I think everyone’s ERA is lower than Hochevar’s. Well, except for Jonathan Sanchez). Only Chen and Hochevar pitched more innings than Santana and only Chen won more games than Santana with 11. Santana had a better SO/9 than the 2012 Royals starters, but worse HR/9. Only Hochevar had a worse WAR at 1.7. In other words, the 2012 Santana is an improvement, but not by much.
What’s the upside? If you average out Santana’s 2008-2011 seasons, his ERA was 3.90, he had a 52-37 record with 202.1 average innings pitched. His average SO/9 was 7.4, BB/9 was 2.7, SO/BB was 2.89 and he gave up an average of 1.1 HR/9 with a 2.4 WAR. Compare that to top free agent Zack Greinke‘s 2012 season with a 3.48 ERA, 212.1 innings pitched, 8.5 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.70 SO/BB and giving up 0.8 HR/9 and 1.6 WAR. Greinke’s overall numbers are better, but Santana’s numbers are close. If the Royals get the 2008-2011 Santana, he will be a vast improvement to the Royals rotation.
Between the two, Greinke is a much better pitcher. But if you think the Royals are getting Greinke for $13MM a year, you’re dreaming. Santana is a one year, $13MM deal and unless he goes all Jonathan Sanchez on the Royals, they’re getting a league average middle of the rotation innings eater. The Royals hope Santana can bridge the team to 2014, when pitchers like Jake Odorizzi, Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino are a part of the rotation.
Let’s put it this way: the Royals offseason is better compared to last offseason by getting Ervin Santana and trading Sisk to the Angels, who wasn’t going to be on the Royals 40-man roster anyway. Of course that’s a pretty low bar to clear. But it shows the Royals are serious and Moore says the team isn’t through looking for starting pitching.