Toronto Blue Jays reportedly keeping an eye on Johan Santana
The Toronto Blue Jays are continuing with their offseason mantra of “no stone unturned, most players unsigned” by reportedly showing interest in the once-great Johan Santana. Jon Heyman of CBS lists the Jays as one of several teams who are monitoring his comeback attempt with the Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan League.
The majority of reports involving any player over the past month seem to have the Toronto Blue Jays linked to them, so take this with a grain of salt, but Santana offers the opportunity to open up a wider discussion on whether or not the Blue Jays could use a veteran arm at the back of their rotation.
Aaron Sanchez is currently slotted in as the #5 starter with Daniel Norris the likeliest candidate to push him. Sliding Sanchez into the bullpen, likely in a closer’s role, has long been floated as a one-year option if the right circumstances raised. Whether the addition be Johan Santana or someone else entirely, adding a veteran to the competition for the fifth spot on the rotation could have some value. This would need to be a capable veteran, of course, not just another waiver-claim “guy”. This will be Sanchez’s first MLB rotation spot, and it should be earned more than it is given.
Santana, still just 35, is far from the pitcher that dominated baseball from 2003-08. It’s difficult to argue against him being the league’s best in those years. Injuries have derailed his career since 2010, however.
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2012 saw Santana’s last meaningful action in the big leagues, as he pitched 117.0 innings for the New York Mets, recording an uninspiring 4.85 ERA and 1.333 WHIP. His 2013 season would be lost due to a second torn anterior capsule in his throwing shoulder. In 2014, Santana’s comeback attempt with the Baltimore Orioles organization was cut short by a torn achilles.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported that the Toronto Blue Jays were interested in Santana last year, too, before he signed with Baltimore. His fastball has been topping out around 89MPH this month in the Venezuelan league, which isn’t a great detriment for a pitcher who relied on control over power throughout his career. At this point, it appears that his recovery from the achilles injury is just as worrisome as his recurring shoulder troubles.
Like many veteran pitchers who are returning from either injury or poor seasons, Santana would only interest me on a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. When dealing with a player who brings so many unknown variables, a Minor League deal is the safest option, especially on a club with limited resources.
Regardless of how unlikely it is that Johan Santana wears the blue and white next season, the Jays interest in him may signify that they haven’t closed the door on signing a starter to either fill the fifth spot or provide quality depth from AAA Buffalo. With Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris all still very young, adding another greybeard as insurance behind them is a real, and logical, possibility.