The Kansas City Royals made their first acquisition of the off-season by acquiring right-handed starting pitcher Ervin Santana
and cash from the Los Angeles Angels for left-handed minor league reliever Brandon Sisk
The Angels had two options with the 29-year-old Santana. They could either exercise their $13 million option on him, or let him walk for a $1 million buy-out. The Angels decided to exercise their option, but then trade Santana and $1 million to the Royals in return for a minor league pitcher.
Los Angeles didn't have serious intentions on bringing Santana back, and instead of paying a million dollars for nothing in return, they decided to trade the contract and $1 million for a minor league pitcher.
2012 was statistically one of Santana's worst seasons in the big leagues. The Dominican Republic native posted a 9-13 win-loss record with a 5.16 ERA (5.63 FIP) and 6.72 strikeouts per nine innings. He also allowed a league high 1.97 home runs per nine innings last season (39 total HR). In this eight seasons with the Angels, Ervin was 96-80 with a 4.33 ERA (4.43 FIP) and 7.12 strikeouts per nine innings.
Santana throws a four-seam fastball as his primary pitch, with his slider as his secondary "out" pitch. In addition to his fastball and slider, he also uses a changeup on occasion. He's struggled with control during his career, allowing close to three walks per nine innings.
In 2012, Big Erv's
biggest concern was the velocity on his fastball. According to BrooksBaseball.net
, Santana's fastball averaged 93.4 miles per hour in 2011, but dropped to 92.4 mph in 2012. If you mix in the lower velocity and control issues, Santana became a league average pitcher. He relied on his flat fastball, hoping to get a batter in a two-strike count, where he could use his swing-and-miss slider.
As far as Santana's home run woes, he'll be moving to Kauffman Stadium which is a slight upgrade from Angel Stadium. In 2012, Kauffman had a park factor of 92 home runs, while Angel Stadium sat at 97. It isn't much help, but with Santana's recent history, every little bit helps.
In exchange for Santana and cash, the Angels received minor leaguer Brandon Sisk, who has spent the past five seasons in the Royals minor league system. He's a lefty that has 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 340 1/3 minor league innings. Over the past two seasons at Triple-A Omaha, Sisk posted a 7-7 record with a 4.25 ERA and 2.60 K/BB ratio. Sisk will likely be used as a lefty-specialist from the bullpen at the Triple-A or big league level moving forward. Against right-handed hitters over the past two seasons, he's allowed 1.16 home runs per nine innings with a 4.36 FIP. Against lefties, he's held them to a .190 batting average and struck out 9.77 hitters per nine innings.
Overall, the Royals made it clear they wanted starting pitching help this off-season. They have a decent offensive lineup, but suffered in the starting rotation. At first glance, acquiring Santana for $12 million may seem like a lot of money for a mediocre starting pitcher (not to say it isn't) - but when looking at potential free agents Zack Greinke
, Dan Haren
, and Edwin Jackson
, the Royals were likely not going to land a "big name"
free agent this off-season. The Royals are gambling on Santana working out mechanical issues and returning his fastball velocity to a respectable speed. In addition to possibly showing flashes of his old self in 2013, the Royals will likely have an "innings-eater" with Santana, as he's averaged 198 innings a season over the past five years.