But today, Ervin Santana ended his excruciating free agency, signing a one-year deal with the Braves for roughly $14 million. I figured that was as good a reason to get me back on here. The Royals' offseason has been over for some time now but this announcement officially puts a period on it. Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales are still available but would be curious acquisitions, even for Dayton Moore.
I'll try not to dwell too much on the Santana signing and then I'll touch on the few things I skipped writing about earlier this offseason.
I'm actually not sure why the Braves weren't in on Santana months ago. Even if Kris Medlen weren't barreling toward Tommy John surgery, Brandon Beachy weren't having his own arm issues after missing nearly all of 2013, and Mike Minor wasn't flirting with starting the season on the DL, the Braves would still have their fair share of question marks in their rotation. Julio Teheran is legit as far as I'm concerned but Alex Wood was their fifth starter before the Santana signing and the jury is still out on whether he's starter material.
When healthy, that's certainly a good rotation. It's a deep rotation. But there's no clear-cut hierarchy to it. Teheran, Minor and Medlen could all be the No. 1 guy and Beachy could easily be the No. 5. If it were me, from the start, I'd have seriously considered giving up a late first round pick to add a proven veteran to stabilize that staff and allow Wood to slide into a relief role or be the first guy up from Triple-A in case of injury.
Well, the injuries came early this spring for Atlanta and a partnership with Santana became inevitable. And ironically, Santana signed for the same amount he turned down when the Royals presented him a qualifying offer of one year, $14.1 million. Yeah. Now you see how hollow all those cute tweets were from Big Erv (or whoever was operating his twtter account — perhaps his former agent!).
I'm curious to see who Royals fans turn into the bad guy in this situation.
The obvious punching bag is David Glass for not breaking the bank to bring back Santana.
Someone like me might point the finger at Dayton Moore for signing Jason Vargas in November. Sure, Vargas's four-year, $32 million deal looks outrageously cheap compared to the five-year, $100 deal Santana was dreaming of. But compared to a one-year deal of any amount for Santana, the Vargas deal again looks foolish. So I'll say it again: YOU DON'T SIGN FRINGE PLAYERS IN NOVEMBER BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT BARGAINS WILL BE AVAILABLE IN MARCH — AS LONG AS YOU STILL HAVE THE FUNDS!
And then there's Ervin.
"Making me believe again" can be loosely translated to "making me a relevant pitcher again." And Royals fans hoped against hope all offseason he would reward the risk the Royals took on him by signing a team-friendly deal to come back. Especially when it became clear he wasn't getting a $100 million deal.
And Santana sure teased fans. Not only did he tweet about how much he was enjoying being a Royal. ("Be Royal." That should be a slogan. Write that down.) Santana tweeted about the Chiefs more than I thought about the Chiefs last season.
And that's if you believe Santana was actually the mind behind his twitter feed. In my experience, I've never seen an athlete fall so head-over-heels for a city. I highly doubt Santana spent his offseason within 1,000 miles of Kansas City. I'm guessing if any reporters ask him to name his favorite Chiefs players during his first press conference with the Braves, he'll be stumped.
How do I think this played out?
Well, I think Santana might have been desperate enough to return to the Royals this month for the same offer he originally turned down. Even if he wasn't behind his twitter account, if he absolutely hated his time here, I don't think he would have allowed whoever was tweeting on his behalf to be quite so pro-Kansas City. However, because of the Vargas signing, I think the Royals refused to spend another $14 million, even if for only one year — a year in which they almost have to win or suffer the humiliating consequences of losing James Shields this offseason and reverting to another eight-year plan.
However, I wouldn't say the Royals passed on Santana because they're cheap. I'm sure the price was part of it. But I think they also believe between Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Vargas, Bruce Chen, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Wade Davis and Kyle Zimmer their rotation will be fine. That rotation doesn't inspire playoff-caliber confidence in me, but I'm not working for the Royals.
And maybe the Royals don't believe Santana will repeat his 2013 success. He was a -1.0 WAR pitcher in 2012, afterall, before bouncing back to a 3.0 WAR last year — a level he'd reached just twice before in his career and not since 2008.
Last but not least, don't forget the draft pick. With the Braves losing their pick and the Royals gaining one, Kansas City gained the 28th overall pick, which could turn into the 27th or 26th if Drew and/or Morales happen to sign before the draft. Scouts are raving about the Royals' second pick last year, pitcher Sean Manaea, so with extra slot money to spend now, maybe just maybe Moore can hit on another sneaky draft pick.
Personally, I think Santana's stuff plays well at Kauffman Stadium and the Royals defense might even be better this year, so I could've seen him repeating his success in KC. But if the Royals weren't calling, I can't blame Santana for switching over to the National League, going from the eighth best hitters park to the 10th best pitchers park, and pitching in front of another great defense (or at least Andrelton Simmons).
Really, the Santana signing is a fitting end to the offseason. The Braves have had an excellent offseason, signing nearly every young player on the roster to an extension. Meanwhile the Royals essentially drew a line in the sand. Dayton Moore has constructed his team and it's the team he's going into the season with. And if you want to look at it optimistically, perhaps he and Glass decided to save whatever money they would have given to Santana for a midseason acquisition. Perhaps that $14 million is in a "break in case of emergency" case and they don't view a rotation without Santana as an emergency.
*Anyway, while I was away, the Royals released Brad Penny and lost Luke Hochevar for the season to TJ surgery.
This is the first time I've written Brad Penny's name and this is precisely why.
As for Hochevar, it's a tough break for all involved, but on the bright side it saves Ned Yost from being tempted to use Hochevar as a starter. And if there was one area the Royals could take such a hit, it was the bullpen. I'll be surprised if there's a noticeable difference without him.
The real shame to me is the Royals didn't get value for Hochevar at any point they could have traded him — whether they'd traded him at his worst to an organization looking to revive his career or to any team looking for bullpen help after his resurgence last year.
Worst of all, he's eating up $5.2 million of the Royals' budget as he sits on the shelf. Had he been cleared at any point, even if he'd been traded for dirt, that's $5.2 million that could have put the Royals in the market for an impact starting pitcher. Instead Hochevar will be a free agent after the season so he'll either walk for nothing or Moore will just hand him the $14 million he didn't spend on Santana.
I'll go to my grave believing Dayton Moore played a role in the drafting of Luke Hochevar. He was hired to run an organization and that organization just so happened to possess the No. 1 overall pick — a pick that can define the franchise — and he just sat back and left the decision to some scouts he didn't even know that well? No way. If that's truly what he did, then it was an insanely irresponsible decision. So assuming he did in fact pull the trigger on Hochevar, that's an unforgivable mistake.
Fire Dayton Moore