Jobu weighs in on the possibility of the Yankees bringing in former superstar Johan Santana.
When you put together a major league roster, you sometimes have to take some creative chances in personnel. Every year, the Yankees seem to bring in a guy or two on a minor league deal to see what they have left in the tank, and what they might be able to offer the team last year. Prior to the 2011 season, the Yankees brought in Bartolo Colón and Freddy García to battle out for rotation spots in the Spring. The two ended up going 20-18 with a 3.81 ERA in 311 innings for a team that won 97 games and the Eastern Division. Now, the Yankees relied way too heavily on these two men, which led to an eventual early exit in the post-season, but the point is those two guys, who seemingly had nothing left (Colón hadn’t pitched in the majors in two years), ended up being keys to the season while carrying very affordable contracts. With Johan Santana, the Yankees have a chance to reel in some more magic, so why not take it?
First of all, I must reiterate that no one, under any circumstances, should ever give this version of Johan Santana a major league contract with any kind of guaranteed roster spot or salary. He is 100% damaged goods. This is not a knock on him as a person, or on the player he once was, but he’s a big time injury risk. He hasn’t played a full season since 2008, and he missed all of the 2011 and 2013 seasons. His injuries have ranged from a torn meniscus (2008, didn’t miss time) to a strained pectoral muscle (2009) to a twice torn capsule in his throwing shoulder (cost him the end of 2010, all of 2011, the end of 2012 and all of 2013). The shoulder injuries are the major red flags, as no pitcher has ever returned from that type of injury to be as effective as they were before being hurt.
All of that being said, if Santana can even come close to what he used to be able to do on the mound, the Yankees could reap some large, and inexpensive, benefits. As usual, let’s do a quick career retrospective for the subject of our piece. The 34-year old Venezuelan was signed as an amateur free agent by the Houston Astros in 1995, when he was just 16 years old. In one of the biggest bonehead moves in the history of baseball, the Astros left him unprotected in the 1999 Rule V draft, and the Twins snatched up the then 21-year old. Actually, according to Wikipedia, the Marlins drafted Santana from the Astros, but traded his rights for those of Jared Camp that day (the two teams had agreed to the deal before). Over the next four seasons, Santana shuffled from the rotation to the bullpen, before finally being handed a full-time rotation spot starting in 2004. He won the Cy Young Award that year. He also won it in 2006. After the 2007 season, the Twins realized they wouldn’t be able to sign him after he hit free agency following the 2008 season, so they dealt him to the Mets for Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Phillip Humber and Kevin Mulvey. Johan then signed a six year, $137.5MM extension with the Mets.
The Yankees actually tried to trade for Santana back then, but balked when the Twins demanded both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, who were the team’s two top pitching prospects back then (how things change). Given Santana’s injuries, the Yankees probably made the right move. Maybe they don’t miss the playoffs in 2008 if they got him then, but they still won the World Series in 2009, which was Santana’s last injury free season anyway.
Anywho, the Yankees now have a chance to bring Johan back in under much more affordable circumstances. Rumor has it that he’s looking to sign somewhere pretty soon, and that his possible landing spots include the Yankees, Pirates, Twins, Rays, Orioles and Brewers. Hopefully, he decides to stay in New York. Assuming they are able to grab Masahiro Tanaka this month, the Yankees would presumably give Santana a chance to beat out a conglomerate of young players (Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, David Phelps and Michael Pineda) for the fifth starter spot. He could also battle those same guys, along with Cesar Cabral, for a spot in the bullpen.
Signing him has no risk, all reward potential, so I think they should get it done. Worst case, maybe he can work his way back in AAA and be there as insurance in case someone gets injured.
Featured image courtesy of: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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