Posted: 8:26 am Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Braves sign Santana to bolster injury-riddled rotation 

By David O'Brien

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1496419233001?bctid=3329523110001

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Moving quickly to bolster their suddenly leaky starting rotation, the Braves signed free agent Ervin Santana to a one-year, $14.1 million contract Wednesday.

Santana, 31, was 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 211 innings last season for the Kansas City Royals, and tied for fourth in the American League with 23 quality starts (six innings or more and three earned runs or fewer allowed). The right-hander was mulling offers worth $13 million to $14 million or more from the Orioles and Blue Jays and was within perhaps a day of making a decision this week before the Braves swooped in.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said he contacted Santana’s agent, Jay Alou, soon after Braves planned opening-day starter Kris Medlen left Sunday’s start against the Mets with an elbow-ligament injury that is almost certainly going to require season-ending Tommy John surgery for the second time in Medlen’s career.

The Braves were already talking to Santana before Brandon Beachy left Monday’s start against the Phillies with biceps tightness near his twice-surgically repaired elbow. It only strengthened their resolve to get Santana.

Photos: 10 things to know about Ervin Santana

“It just worked out that he had not reached an agreement yet,” Wren said, “and so once we had the injuries, we reached out to his agent…. We’re thrilled to have him, and we feel like he really gives us a big shot in the arm as far as the rotation’s concerned.

“In light of what’s happened over the past few days with our pitching staff, we thought it was incumbent on us to do everything we could to strengthen our starting pitching.”

Santana was in uniform by 8 a.m. Wednesday, and said at a hastily called news conference at Champion Stadium: “I’m very excited to be in this organization. Young talent. It’s going to be a fun season for us.”

He has a mid-90 mph fastball, a good slider and an above-average change-up, and Santana has improved his sinker and induced more ground balls in recent years.

The Braves, defending  National League East champions, determined that they had put in too much work assembling what they believe to be another strong playoff-caliber team to see it undermined by a compromised rotation, even if that meant taking the payroll to about $10 million above the planned $100 million limit.

“We’re not in a rebuilding mode. We’re in a winning mode,” Braves CEO Terry McGuirk said. “And we’re standing in this clubhouse right now with a bunch of winners around us. We think that the time is now. We’ve always been willing to add to the payroll and add to the sustance of this club. We have been in a rebuilding mode going with you, going back four or five years. But that youth has all arrived. If you were in our spot, you would do the same thing. It’s the right time.

“Money is not the issue so much as, is it the right time to do it? We want to send a message to the guys in this clubhouse and our fans and our sponsors, to our organization, that we expect to win, we want to win. That was why.”

Even as Wren was making his first contact with Santana’s agent, Braves president John Schuerholz was calling to talk with McGuirk — who also serves as liason of sorts to Braves corporate owner Liberty Media — about the need to go over budget given the circumstances. McGuirk agreed.

“This is an incredible decision by the organization, because this is going to push us well above what we thought our budget would be this year,” Wren said. “But Mr. McGuirk and John jumped in to say this is important for our team, and made a big commitment.”

It was a commitment that was well received in the clubhouse, as well as among fans on Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet.

“I thought he was one of the better guys on the market (this winter) to begin with, and to get him on a one-year deal is huge,” Braves catcher Gerald Laird said of Santana, whom he’s faced plenty in the AL. “It just shows you how much confidence Frank has in this team to win games. Unfortunately two guys go down. But to sign a guy like that….

“We’ve got a good ballclub, and to get a guy like this to solidify that top of the rotation – he’s got a track record of being good. I’m excited. We have a first-class organization. They go out there and get a guy like that, and you’re smiling.”

The Braves also sacrifice a first-round draft pick in the upcoming June draft, the No. 26 overall pick, for signing Santana, since he rejected a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Royals after the 2013 season. Wren said that losing that pick was made a little easier for the Braves due to the fact that they gained the No. 32 overall selection in the draft as compensation for losing free agent Brian McCann.

But he indicated the move would’ve been made regardless, because the in the bigger picture they are trying to win at the major league level, and everyone including scouting director Tony DeMacio agreed with the decision to sign Santana because of the sudden need in the rotation.

“Literally the afternoon that Kris Medlen got hurt, I reached out to Jay Alou by text,” Wren said. “And then we started talking (Tuesday) and trying to see if there was a match. When I reached out originally it was because I knew from media reports that he was down the road with some other clubs who had a big head start on us (in negotiations). So we tried to see if there was still a chance for us to get in the mix.

“I think once we started talking, we realized that Ervin was very interested in us as well, that he thought this was a good opportunity for him, and it was a perfect for us for. We’re fortunate that it all fit at the right time. Another day later, we might not have been able to make it happen.”

Medlen is expected to have Tommy John surgery after meeting with Dr. James  Andrews in the next few days. The delay in making a final decision is due to the fact that Andrews and other orthopedic surgeons have been in New Orleans for a national convention that runs through the weekend.

Beachy’s issue is not believed to be as serious as Medlen’s, but the Braves can’t be certain of when he’ll be ready.

Starter Mike Minor also might start the season on the disabled list after not being able to throw in January due to Dec. 31 urinary-tract surgery, then developing shoulder soreness in the first week of camp when he tried to do a bit too much too soon. He’s expected to make his Grapefruit League debut in the next week. Gavin Floyd, recovering from Tommy John surgery, is expected to join the rotation in May.

“We don’t have any finality on Brandon, or Kris — we don’t know what’s going to happen with either guy, and we’re still hoping for the best,” Wren said. “But just knowing where we were depth-wise, we felt it was really important (to sign Santana)….  Throughout the winter, we didn’t feel like we were going to be in this (starting pitcher) market, but we felt like Ervin was the No. 1 guy in the market. We always felt that he was the guy that, if we were going to go out there (and sign a frontline pitcher), he was the guy that we would love to have.”

Santana, who has a 105-90 career record and 4.19 ERA in 268 games (265 starts) over nine seasons, said he’s been throwing all spring and is close to being ready to pitch in games, but Wren said they would be careful not to rush him and said he didn’t think Santana would be in the rotation for at least the first week of the regular season.

The Braves planned to have him throw a bullpen side session Wednesday and face hitters in batting practice by the end of the week. He could make his Grapefruit League debut next week.

When asked about coming to the National League for the first time, Santana smiled and said, “I like to hit…. I don’t know the National League, but I will adjust and do my job like I always do and go out every five days and do my work. It’s going to be fun.”

He was signed by the Angels as an amateur free agent in 2000 out of the Dominican Republic. Santana debuted at age 22 in 2005, and was an American League All-Star in 2008 when he went 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 219 innings, finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award balloting.

“He’s a great pitcher,” said Jordan Walden, a former Angels teammate. “He’s got good stuff. I was very happy to see that.”

Walden played catch with Santana on Wednesday morning and said he wasn’t surprised how quickly the newcomer seemed comfortable in the Braves clubhouse.

“Awesome guy. I knew he was going to fit in right away over here,” Walden said. “He’s going to make friends with everybody. No problems with him. He’s going to love it here.”

Santana was 96-80 with a 4.33 ERA in eight seasons for the Angels before he was traded to the Royals in October 2012 in exchange for minor league pitcher Brandon Sisk. The Angels also paid $1 million of his $13 million salary as part of that trade.

Before his career-best season with the Royals in 2013, Santana had one of his worst seasons in 2012 with the Angels, going 9-13 with a  5.16 ERA and allowing a league-high 39 home runs in 178 innings.

“He just needed a new start,” Walden said. “He got out of Anaheim last year and he liked it where he was (in Kansas City), and he’s going to love it here. I think he’ll be like he was last year, if not better.”

49 comments
dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

By the way, if Medlen were healthy and we brought in Santana as our number 4 starter I would call that "bolstering our staff". I would hardly call this "bolstering" anything.

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

" Do any of you guys think we could have taken the division without Santana? Honestly, do you seriously believe that? " No I pretty much chalked up the season once our ace went down.

You believe that a career .500 pitcher that was still a FA 2 weeks into Spring Training is going to save our season? Honestly, do you seriously believe that?

Getting "the best pitcher available" doesn't mean you just signed a difference maker. It means just what it means, he was the best available.

You said it best. The Yankees signed an unproven Japanese pitcher for 155 mil. Dumb. So because Darvish has had success then this guy will too???? DOesn't matter that there is a loooong list of Japanese pitchers who weren't succesful?

We gave up 14 mil and possibly a 1st round draft pick for .500 rental?????

Biff_Pocoroba
Biff_Pocoroba

Props to ownership for doing what needed to be done. I was skeptical. I hate it for Medlen and hope he beats the odds if he has to undergo another Tommy John surgery. Let's hope Beachy's OK.

TheMonger
TheMonger

You blog fools bashing this deal are ignorant as anything. Santana is coming off a career best season, 3.24 ERA after developing a nasty sinker to his already filthy 3 pitch repertoire and you guys bash the deal?  He was the consensus #2 free agent starting pitcher in this free agent class after Mashiro Tanaka, who in case you didn't know already signed with the Yankees for $155 million.  So the Yankees pay $155 million for an unproven Japenese pitcher and it is a heralded move in New York, but clueless Braves fans bash Wren for getting the 2nd best pitcher on the free agent market for only 14 million dollars less than a month from opening day, after seeing 2 of our best pitchers go down within days of each other.  I don't like Wren very much, and have cringed at some of his moves (Lowe, McLouth, Kawakami, Uggla, BJ Upton), but this is not one of them.  This is a straight up coup by Frank Wren.  To get the best pitcher available instead of letting this season go to waste by throwing guys like Freddie Garcia and Gavin Floyd out there.  Do any of you guys think we could have taken the division without Santana?  Honestly, do you seriously believe that?  You are either insane, delusional, or have zero knowledge of the game of baseball.  Minor will be fine, as will Beachy in a few weeks after his bicep settles down.  Now we have a little bit of depth in our rotation once again, because there WILL BE another injury or two....

Depth Chart Starting Rotation Now:

1. Teheran

2. Santana

3. Minor

4. Beachy

5. Wood

All 5 of those guys should have ERA's in the 2.90 -3.90 range.  We also have David Hale (11 scoreless MLB innings so far, not bad), and Gavin Floyd for emergency depth.  I am assuming Freddie Garcia will not make the 25 man roster out of Spring Training now that we have Santana, and hence he will retire.  He is out of gas, and just not a good pitcher anymore

BreastMan
BreastMan

Wren has already signed so many overpaid free agents, what's another?


So the rotation the first four games is Teheran, Garcia, Wood & Hale?

Mixxo
Mixxo

Is this the new blog??????

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

terrible deal, period. Giving up a 1st round pick for a one year pitcher is beyond ignorant, It's a knee jerk reaction and indicative of the same rash, impatient behavior exhibited by Frank Wren in the past.


The Braves are trying to save a season that is already adrift and Ervin Santana isn't the man to right the ship.

Hammerman
Hammerman

Way to $ack up Liberty Media,GO BRAVES!

Getting_Older
Getting_Older

Great to have him, congratulations to the Braves, and to Liberty Media (wow, didn't ever expect to say that...).

I like all of the Braves moves this winter/spring!


Royals came out pretty good.  Ist Round Pick basically for Brandon Sisk (traded to Angels for Santana).


RBI
RBI

Great move, Frank Wren and Braves mgmt!  

As a fan, thanks for moving so quickly and so well.  Santana is a quality pitcher!  And, though it cost a "pretty penny" ($14.1 million), it was only a one-yr commitment and leaves options open for coming seasons, including the possibility to re-sign Santana if the fit works out.

kenstallings
kenstallings

To say I'm impressed with how quickly this wrapped up is an understatement.  This is the first time I've actually seen a move done that convinced me the team is not shackled to a budgetary consideration.

lap80
lap80

I always thought Santana was a subpar pitcher myself, but maybe a jump to the NL will be good for him. I just don't understand what all the hoopla is about. I'm cautiously optimistic, at best. "That's why they play the games", as Skip Caray used to say. Too much wild prognostication... 

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

The Braves still have to play the Mets 18 times, so if Santana starts being a stud, they will break his ankle bones and end his season,.

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

Would not be surprised if Santana's ERA in the NL is 1 point lower. Perfect place to go when you need one year to try and get a big multi-year deal the next year. Hope he thrives.  

jeffblauser4
jeffblauser4

great move, even if the Braves did not have an injury problem, the Braves needed a seasoned veteran in the rotation

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

The Medlen injury is a tragedy; he's one of the top pitchers in MLB and a potential 20-game winner (could have been last year with some run support). Signing Santana is about as solid a plan-B as one could hope for.

All the talk about a #1 or #2 starter is tiresome and it means NOTHING. NOTHING. Generally speaking, the Braves need three starters who eat 200+ innings and put the team in a position to win 2/3 of the time or better. Right now, that figures to be Teheran, Santana, and Minor. The other starters collectively need to be plus-.500 unless one of the top three goes on a Cy Young binge.

Atl50
Atl50

Just wish they were already in Cobb County! 

htownbrave
htownbrave

This is a move that had to be made.  It's also great to see the payroll being stretched when a need has to be filled.  Another thing I don't understand is all of the fuss about losing a first round pick.  This isn't basketball or football where you're guaranteed to get a guy who is probably going to fill an immediate need for your big league club.  This team and this organization will be fine.

Waredawg
Waredawg

For those that complain I'm the eternal pessimist (I prefer realist), finally a move I can get moderately excited about. Although we slightly overpaid (no choice under the circumstances), at least he's only a one year rental with strong incentive to excel. Santana is at least a #3 on any staff in the majors and a # 2 on the vast majority of teams. Unfortunately (for our postseason chances), he's probably our #1 for '14. 


Yesterday, I predicted 85 wins, I now optimistically see high 80's / low 90's if they bring Minor along slowly and he wins 12-15 games, either Hale or Wood wins 12+, either BJ or Uggla comes back to something approaching average form (of the two my money's on Uggla - BJ's swing looks unfixable), and either Beachy, Garcia or Floyd wins 8-10 as the 5th starter. I don't think Beachy's arm will hold up,

still think Floyd was a wasted signing, so Garcia looks like the best bet, unless they release him. Personally, I give him the job on experience alone until he proves he has nothing left.


And if the Braves acquire a "true" leadoff hitter to replace BJ or Uggla and move Heyward to an RBI slot, mid 90's and Div. title are feasible if (it's a big "if") all the above occurs. There's a lot a question marks, but some reason for mild excitement. Will reassess again in early May. GO BRAVES!

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Hopefully Santana will pitch lights out this season knowing that he will get a good 3-4 year contract from some team after this season and then the Brave's can recoup that lost draft pick.This makes the starting rotation in week 1........Teheran,Santana,Wood,Hale(still undetermined?) and Garcia............until Minor and Beachy are ready then they can slide in Hale's and Garcia's spots.Maybe Schlosser can help too!

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

Good, one year move.  Give them time to look to next year and beyond for pitching.  Medlin is now a real, real big IF for the future.  Few come back from a second TJ surgery and be a decent pitcher.  It has happened, but few.  I am not that high on Santana, but with this team hitting behind him, he could win 12-15 games and he is pitching for that big long term contract next year, so he could, with luck win more.  He had a 9-10 record, but a very good 3.24 ERA and threw 211 innings.  That amount of innings is big if he can go 200-220 innings for the Braves.  Decent move.

prehm14
prehm14

Good move, without Santana I don't the Braves compete for the division crown. Let's hope Beachy throws 180+ innings, then we're good.

npbritt
npbritt

Can't deny that this move was the best possible option. The way I see it, we only had 3 options. 


1) do nothing and hope for the best.  

2) spend ~15 mil and sign Santana to a 1 yr deal, which actually won't blow up our payroll since the other deals we've inked are back-loaded. The downside is losing a 1st round pick, but remember we picked one up when we lost Huddy (we give up the 26th pick, but we gained the 31st, so the tradeoff is comparable)

3) sell the farm to trade for an ace like Cliff Lee, Chris Sale or David Price


#2 is the best risk/benefit, especially on a 1 year deal

Farcas
Farcas

Great move! Brings a lot of comfort to this starting rotation and experience.

Darren in Nashville
Darren in Nashville

important move by Atlanta, it shows the young core of players that have just signed extentions that the organization will have their backs...well done Frank and John!

Brave44
Brave44

I hated to see this happen to Medlen again. What a pleasure to watch him pitch. I hope he gets this resolved and is back on the mound to have a stellar career.


Go get ' em Kris

Samurai-Squirrel
Samurai-Squirrel

The biggest problem with the signing is that we have to give up our first round pick for him...

J_Bird
J_Bird

Who is this team and who's checkbook did they steal?

northbeach_scott
northbeach_scott

This move should dispel any doubters of the notion that the Braves are not in it to win. Major coup by Wren, well done!

bdcbraves
bdcbraves

Feel terrible for Medlen, but this is a great move.

guest_54
guest_54

@TheMonger  Only people that are fans of other teams or trolls will not like this signing for the Braves. Don't let them get to you . . . it's what they want.

TheMonger
TheMonger

@BreastMan No the rotation the first four games is likely Teheran, Santana, Wood, and Hale.  Garcia will not make the 25 man roster now that Santana has been signed.  In case you didn't notice Garcia gave up 6 runs in only 2 innings last start, expectant father or not, that is the type of pitcher he is... a 37 year old that throws 86 MPH batting practice fastballs...his miracle run is over. 

Santana will be ready to go Opening Day, unless you know something I don't.  The Braves and Santana both said he is 100 percent healthy and ready to go.  Minor is throwing bullpens already, and it is looking likely he will take that April 12th start, since we won't need a 5th starter until then, and Beachy's injury looks minor as well and I personally don't think it will set him back more than a week or two, so he may even be in the opening day rotation as well.  Gavin Floyd is expected back in mid to late May as well.

TheMonger
TheMonger

@lap80 Seriously, subpar?  You must know nothing about the game.   Yes, the guy has had a down year or two, but so has every other great pitcher.  As the guy above me already pointed out, a 3.24 ERA in the American League last year.  AL All-Star in 2008 at 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA, also in the heavy hitting American League.  The guy has a mid-90s fastball, a very good slider, and an absolutely filthy change up.  Not to mention he added a sinker last year that made him an even better pitcher, as evidenced by his 3.24 ERA.  Obviously General Managers don't view him as subpar, as evidenced by the fact that 4 different teams offered him at least 13 million dollars to play for their team this year.  Learn some baseball.

RBI
RBI

@lap80 Seriously?  Subpar?  Santana has been an All-Star and he had a very good season just last year, pitching 211 innings with a 3.24 ERA.  That's a helluva lot better than mediocre and no where close to subpar.

Waredawg
Waredawg

@DawgDadII Talk about #1 starter may be tiresome,  but in most years is a reality of playoff baseball. Teheran or Minor (less likely) may get there, but until one does, we don't match up well with anyone in a short series.

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

@Waredawg this team will not make the playoffs in 14-15, who knows when again , the only way they can win division if they score an average of 8 runs a game ,,,Tehran is number1 , Santana, 2 , wood, 3  Garcia 4 hale 5 until minor or beachy , can be ready for action  so I will make a ton of money betting against the braves this year, they could have gotten , price, for 14 million  ayear damn , how about 63-99 the record and a good draft pick next year dodgers win ws in 2014

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

@prehm14   I  don't see Beachy getting 180+ innings.  He will be lucky for 125-150 innings with his arm issues.

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

@npbritt   The Braves have the TWENTY-SEVENTH RANKED minor league system.  They actually have few quality minor league players.  The catcher on the farm is their best ranked and he is 87th in MLB's list of prospects.  They don't have another in the top 100.  There is no farm to sell.  The Braves have drafted poorly in the past few years and some of the GM's stupid trades sent away many, many quality players the system could have now.  If you look at some of the trades Wren has made in the past 5-7 years, there are many players on other teams having quality careers.  Wainwright, Elvis in Texas, Salty in Miami, and there are others.  He traded away a lot of quality prospects for one year players or bust trades, IE: Uggla.

BraveFanSince66
BraveFanSince66

We still have our number one pick as compensation for losing McCann.

Waredawg
Waredawg

@reallygroovy @Waredawg Agree with you on Price. I've gone on record on multiple occasions since October that no matter what the cost, there will be  no WS in Atlanta until we acquire a #1 pitcher. Just spent 14M M on Santana and wasted 5M on Floyd, with the money we used to resign Freddie (at least a year too soon) we could have easily afforded Price. Everyone gripes about giving up prospects, but not one of those guys is ready now, otherwise we don't need Santana. Imagine if we'd packaged Medlin, Beachy, and a couple other prospects for Price last fall. That would be pure genius, which Frank Wren is not. Kudos to Schultz for suggesting trading a "top of the market" Medlin for a #1 last fall.


As to the record, sorry, but Braves should be at least a .500 team even if everything implodes. Most likely outcome 85-92 wins, either just in or just out of playoffs. GO BRAVES!

guest_54
guest_54

@BravesFan1966 @npbritt  I now remember why I stopped reading the comments on the AJC Braves website. It's because of morons who rant about things they know nothing about and don't check their facts before making ludicrous statements. Unbelievable!

Junior-Samples
Junior-Samples

@BravesFan1966 @npbritt  The farm system is only ranked so low because the talented prospects are now in the majors, not the minors.  There is a ton of home grown talent on the big league club now.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@BravesFan1966 You are correct on their farm system being ranked low by most analysts, but wrong on just about every other point...

Lucas Sims is their top prospect and also on top 100 rankings including Keith Law's and Baseball America's.  Mauricio Cabrera was also said to be in the top 115 or so by both.

Wainwright, Andrus, and Salty were all traded before Wren was GM.

There were no prospects involved in the Uggla trade.  It was only Infante and Mike Dunn.

BraveFanSince66
BraveFanSince66

should I trust your opinion or all of the national media support for this deal?