Aug 11, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Johan Santana (57) pitches during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Johan Santana and Toronto


Feb 21, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher J. Santana (57) poses for a picture during photo day at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

While his name and the Toronto Blue Jays have yet to collide in the same sentence, a question was posed to me, as well as my editor Michael Wray and DJF’s Andrew Stoeten on Twitter about Johan Santana.

It’s a fair question to ask.  Santana is a former two time Cy Young award winner for the Minnesota Twins (2004 & 2006) and finished third in the Cy Young for the New York Mets in 2008.  He’s also a 4x All Star and has a Gold Glove to his credit.  So why is a guy like him a free agent?

It’s a pretty easy answer to solve.  For one, his age.  He’s going to be 35 this season.  Next come the injuries.  Santana was once considered a work horse.  From 2004 to 2008, he consistently gave the Twins and Mets 219+ innings, but then the wheels fell off.  Santana started missing considerable amounts of time with arm trouble.  In 2010, his last strong season, he went 199 IP.  He would have made 200+ IP had he not gotten injured five innings into a game against the Atlanta Braves.  He pitched well and long enough to get his 11th and final win of the season.  Santana would undergo anterior capsule surgery and wouldn’t pitch again until 2012, a season of mixed results.  In 2012, Santana had career worst numbers, yet threw the New York Mets first no-hitter in its history.  It seemed as if Santana had turned the corner, but then one start after the no hitter, he was lost for the rest of the 2012 and all of 2013 seasons with the same anterior capsule injury.

So here we are — 2014.  According to this D.J. Short article written just over a week ago, Santana was yet to throw off the mound.  Of course there’s interest, but the Blue Jays don’t appear to be players.  Instead, you hear more about the Jays being involved with his less successful, younger, similarly named counterpart, “Johan” Ervin Santana.  It may have to do with age, it may have to do with Jays having a strong history in dealing with his agency, Proformance, the same group that represents Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, pitcher Luis Perez, as well as former Jays Fred Lewis, Juan Rivera, Francisco Cordero, and Yan Gomes.  I won’t deny I’m speculating here, but it’s not exactly a stretch either.

Going back to Johan Santana, he has also seen a decline in his stuff.  His FB use to touch 95 MPH, but those days are long gone.  Before the latest injury, he averaging around 88 MPH according to BrooksBaseball.net.  Also, while his CHG has seen a dropoff in vertical movement, his SLD may have suffered the most due to injury as it acts more like a cutter than slider (a slow cutter at that), with decreases in both horizontal and vertical movement.  All of this explains his decrease in K/9.

Despite his return in 2012 from the first surgery, as mentioned before, he suffered career worst numbers.  He had a losing record for the first time in his career at 6-9 with an ERA approaching 5 (4.85).  The ERA is deceiving however as FIP and xFIP have him at 4.09 and 4.02 respectively.  What isn’t deceiving is Santana’s HR/FB% of 11.9% as well as his HR/9 of 1.31.  While it’s not the highest of his career, it’s up there for him and in Toronto, that may be a concern, especially after missing another full season.  BB/9 at 3.00 is also of concern, since it was the highest of his career coming off injury and it may very well be a problem again.

So to answer Brad’s question, it all depends on when and how he throws.  Should the Blue Jays be interested?  While his SLD and FB have fallen off, his other pitches, if they maintain their effectiveness, should make him an MLB pitcher.  A minor league contract may be in order, but again, there seems to be a lot of interest by teams just waiting for Santana to throw the ball off the mound.  If his FB touches 88-90 with location and he’s pain free, it’s worth signing him to an MLB incentive laden deal.  If it’s 82-87, then maybe a minor league deal is in order with MLB incentives.  Santana may not be healthy enough yet, but if he’s close, what would it hurt for Toronto?  So in a long-winded answer, yes, I absolutely feel Toronto should be interested in the mound session.  If the Jays wanted Josh Johnson back, are still seriously considering using Brandon Morrow without making him prove he’s ready, and bringing “flame throwing” Mark Buehrle in as a stabilizing force, there’s no reason the Jays should not consider Johan Santana anymore than they’re not considering Ricky Romero (and they’re considering Romero).  Santana isn’t a thrower.  The man is a pitcher and he’s gotten use to doing work with diminished stuff.  Why would you be interested Aaron Laffey‘s arm, but not Santana’s?  Am I wrong?

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  • brad

    On a minor league deal this makes all kinds of sense. It’s not like there’s a down side other than him potentially taking up a roster spot in Buffalo.

    • Justin Jay

      In all likelihood, that may happen. But a pitching desperate team like the Yankees may also give him a ML shot.

      • brad

        It’s certainly possible. I think it would be a bad idea for any team to plug him in on opening day when he hasn’t pitched of a mound yet in mid January….. and I don’t think he’s worth the ML contract if he isn’t ready to play opening day…. all that to say that healthy or not, anything above a MiLB contract with an invite to spring training and the Jays should pass.

        • Justin Jay

          Who’s to say they won’t sign him and place him on the DL15?

          • brad

            possible again, but I don’t think he’s worth the MLB salary for whatever time he spends inactive or his rehab period(up to 30 days). Also, who is to say that 30 days will be enough rehab time for him in the minors? I think the time Johan needs at the start of the season would be along the lines of extended spring training but could stretch to 2 months of throwing depending on where he can get to by opening day.

          • Justin Jay

            When exhibition starts, it will have been 1.5 yrs since the injury occurred. I would bet he’s pretty well healed. It’s about seeing where he’s at. They could also work him out of the bullpen while trying to build his pitch count to ease him back into the rotation. There are a number of options. It’s tough for me to imagine that if he looks good combined with his past history, that some team wouldn’t give him a ML opp.

          • brad

            could be… I just don’t think it should be the Jays in that case

  • Erik Trenouth

    Sorry to be a nitpicker, but Johan and Ervin aren’t brothers. Ervin’s real name is Johan, but he has gone by Ervin as to avoid confusion, but that is the only link outside their last names and being ML pitchers.

    • Justin Jay

      Erik, you’re not nitpicking because you are correct. I heard the info about being brothers from The Sporting News back when Ervin was coming up the Angels system around 2004-2006 range. I just took it at face value. I wish I could find the article to prove it. I’ve made the adjustment and thank you for pointing this out to me.

  • Quincy-Sam

    As much as the idea of signing him to a minor league deal, AA kinda doused the idea on Primetime this week. Basically said he wasn’t looking to sign starting pitchers to restart their careers as both Toronto and Buffalo spots were full. He is only looking at 1-3 types and anyone else wouldn’t make sense. Some guys with options were going to have to go down, despite maybe deserving to stay up.

    But AA also has to move a couple of pitchers without options for his 25 man roster. So maybe a spot will open up before spring training is over. I like the idea, just don’t see it happening that Santana signs with the Jays.

    • Eric

      Hope he does sign with him. On a MiLB contract obviously but low risk high reward guy who can revamp his career and comeback after injuries. He could be like Liriano of Pitt but for us jays. GO JAYS GO

    • Justin Jay

      Hey guys, thanks for reading. I’m with you QS on it being a long shot. The thing is, if Santana IS healthy and his stuff is still good, you’re talking about a pitcher that could possibly be a #2. Stoeten makes a good point about wondering why he would sign here and like you said, it’s possible to re-start his career. As far as spots being full, if Santana is anything close to the Santana of old (and it’s all about the change-up, as that’s his best pitch), then it doesn’t really matter what spot there is or isn’t. AA would keep Redmond before giving the ball to a healthy Santana? If the Jays have to explore all options, why not this one?

      I’m definitely not saying he will sign here. I’m saying it doesn’t hurt to look into Santana. It doesn’t hurt to have a value on him pre-arranged and then find out what he thinks he’s worth. If it’s a minor league deal, give him a spring training invite to see where he’s at. If he’s not ready, ship him down and let him build himself up. If he doesn’t make it, it was only a minor league deal. Honestly though, if he’s locating at 88 MPH and his changeup appears sharp, why wouldn’t you consider a major league deal if the price is right? I won’t say he’ll be Liriano (Liriano was younger when he blew out his arm), but be interested, let him throw for you, look at some old film for comparison with Walker and a few scouts, and make a decision. At least they can say they gave the idea a chance. Jays fans should appreciate that

      • Quincy-Sam

        I agree that giving him a shot would be a good move. Felt the same way about Halladay. If a former ace has a good shot at returning to form, worth the risk.

        In a different interview AA noted that a couple of former premier players had contacted the Jays looking for a one year deal. One being a position player which something might come out of it. More of coming back from an off year than an injury and looking for a full time role. Guessing Michael Young if he would play 2B. Hmmm.

        By the way Justin, you put up some good posts. Keep up the good work.

        • Justin Jay

          I’m not against Young playing 2B and mentoring Goins. Even with the decreased range, it’s still not bad and certainly better than Izturis. He’s still a decent enough hitter as well. Maybe doing a tandem of 2 games to 1 between Young and Goins? Plus, Young is a good clubhouse guy. Rangers players weren’t happy to see him leave. I hope your guess is right.

          Thank you for the kind words. Hope to keep the good posts coming for ya.