Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Target: Starter Ervin Santana

Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Editorial: Earlier this off-season Rum Bunter put out a list of pontential starting pitching trade targets for Pittsburgh Pirates.  One name on that list was Minnesota Twins starter Ervin Santana.

So far all has been quiet on the Pittsburgh Pirate trade front.  With that being said, many have speculated that the Bucs will look to the trade market to acquire a starting pitcher.  So far Rum Bunter has put out some possible targets including Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Gio Gonzalez.  Another name that was on the market at the 2016 deadline was Twins starter Ervin Santana.  Could he interest the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Ervin Santana‘s Recent Career History

Ervin Santana is a 33-year-old pitcher currently pitching for the Minnesota Twins. After starting his career with the Los Angeles Angels, Ervin Santana was dealt to the Kansas City Royals in the 2012-2013 off-season.  In Kansas City, he posted the best year of his career throwing 211 innings and posting a 3.24 earned run average.  He was set to be a free agent for the 2013-2014 off-season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed reclamation project Edinson Volquez in that off-season. They then were criticized at the time for the buy-low move.  Meanwhile, Santana remained unsigned through much of Spring Training, due to the Royals making him a qualifying offer.  Volquez, as many of us know, worked out well for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Santana ended up settling for a one year contract with the Atlanta Braves, where he had an average year, and a worse year than Volquez.

Although it was not a terrible season for Santana, he did not seem to position himself for a big time contract.  In 2014 Santana made 31 starts and posted a 3.95 earned run average in those starts.  Some positives to that season is that he had a FIP of 3.39 and one of his highest strikeouts rates in his career.  The FIP makes sense as the Braves were one of the worst defensive teams in the National League that season.

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Free Agency the Second Time Around

After have a pedestrian year in 2014, Santana found himself as a free agent after that season once again. Even after an average yea, Santana still landed a pretty solid contract.   He ended up collecting 55 million dollars over four years in a deal with the Twins.  There now two years remaining on his contract, and the Twins seem to be in full on rebuild.  Many were speculating that he was a candidate to be traded at this past deadline.  The Boston Red Soxs and Toronto Blue Jays engaged the Twins in talks regarding the right-handed pitcher.  Instead the Twins decided to hold on to him.  He most likely will be available this off-season again as the Twins look to start a rebuild.  The Twins had a front office overhaul toward the end of the 2016 season and likely will look to build from the ground up.

The Numbers

The Pittsburgh Pirates need a solid number three starter, and Santana fits the bill.  Since 2013, the now 33-year-old right-handed pitcher owns a 3.59 earned run average.  If he could continue that trend he would fit nicely behind Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.  Santana has also been decent at producing ground-balls.  He has not posted a ground-ball percentage under 41% since 2011.  Now obviously that is not a stellar figure, but one that suggests he can get ground-ball outs.  Coming to Pittsburgh he likely could bump that percentage closer to 50% if he adapts to the Bucs pitching philosophy.    Santana is also coming off a very good season.  In 2016 Santana pitched 180.1 innings and posted a solid 3.38 ERA. Along with a solid ERA he did a good job of limiting base runners posting a 1.21 WHIP including a walk rate of 2.63 per nine innings pitched.

The other big thing is, he is a veteran.  The current rotation is made up of a lot of young pitchers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates could use the experienced Santana.  He has thrown over 180 innings in three of the last four seasons.  With two years remaining at 13.5 million dollars, it is reasonable for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates to commit to.  He is not locked long-term and is at an average salary for a player of his quality.

Twins Asking Price

The Bucs have the prospects to send back to acquire Santana.  The Twins seem to be well off with pitching prospects as eight of their top eleven prospects are pitchers.  This does not include stud pitching prospect Jose Berrios who lost his prospect status by pitching enough in the MLB last season.  So chances are the Twins would like to add some hitting prospects.  The Jays have focused on starters in their recent draft and lack any real high upside bats outside of Nick Gordon. The Bucs have a good mix of prospects and have position prospects they could offer up in a deal.

Prospects to Build a Deal Around

Santana would not require an elite prospect like Austin Meadows or Kevin Newman.  However, the Twins would like a couple top organizational prospects.  The twins currently have two “backup” type catchers on their depth chart.  Building a deal around Elias Diaz, who currently blocked by Cervelli and Stewart could make some sense.  The other player that could make sense is Alen Hanson.  With the Bucs trying to resign Sean Rodriguez, and having Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier on the team, Hanson could be expendable.  Now the Twins currently have 40 home run hitter Brian Dozier playing second base, but many reports suggest they are floating him in trade talks.  If the Twins decide to deal Dozier, Hanson could be a nice MLB ready prospect to fill the void.  So to start a deal around Alen Hanson and Elias Diaz could get the ball rolling. The Pirates would likely have to add another lower-level prospect who the Twins would be intrigued by.  I see a package of three prospects being enough to get a deal.  All three prospects would rank well in the Twins farm system that is considered middle of the pack in terms of talent.

Next: Trade Target Alex Cobb

In Conclusion

Ervin Santana may not be the most ideal pitcher to deal for.  He is likely on the down side of his career, and he is not overly impressive.  However, the Pittsburgh Pirates back-end of the rotation really struggled last year and Santana would bring consistency to it.  If the Bucs could get the Twins to throw some money to them in a deal it would definitely be worth taking a look at.  The Twins will likely want a somewhat significant return for Ervin Santan and it is warranted.  Santana is coming off a strong season and all around has had a good career.  With that being said, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the prospects to get a deal done.  With all these starting pitching trade ideas, the question remains are the Bucs willing to move them to acquire a legit starter?  We will see in the coming weeks.