Saturday was a whirlwind day of rumour and whispers about Ervin Santana, starting in the morning when an ESPN Deportes columnist Dionisio Soldevila tweeted that Santana had already reached a one-year, $14 million agreement with the Blue Jays. His colleague Enrique Rojas then tweeted that the deal was not finalized, and that Santana was holding out until 5 pm for a better deal.
Then in the afternoon, Max Wildstein of Outside Pitch reported that he had heard that Santana was going to sign with the Orioles, because they were the ones who have pursued Santana the hardest. A quick look at Wildstein's twitter feed (@MaxWildsteinMLB) shows that the majority of his tweets about Santana appear to be from a Baltimore perspective, so maybe he is not hearing the full story. In any case, the supposed 5 pm "deadline" came and went with nothing reported (as I expected). Except for a Jon Morosi tweet which suggests that Santana is in no rush to sign at all, which means we will likely still be blogging about rumours for the next week or so.
What we need to remember is that baseball players hear these rumours too, and I believe that most in the Blue Jays' clubhouse--perhaps with the exception of the pitchers battling for a spot in the rotation--are interested in seeing their club improved through signing a starter . Morosi's piece up at Fox Sports includes a quote from Jose Bautista in which he basically told the front office to sign Ervin Santana:
"It's not the same players: We're missing Josh Johnson, who was supposed to be a big key to our rotation," Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista said of the 2013-2014 comparison. "One-fifth of your rotation shouldn't be overlooked. That's important. That's why it's so important that we add (Santana)."
Of course, besides thinking about improving the Blue Jays, Bautista might have an ulterior motive in helping a friend in Santana, who he recently joined in leaving Bean Stringfellow's Proformance agency to stick with Jay Alou. By openly commenting about a potential free agent signing, Bautista has pushed added pressure on the club, who already has immense public pressure, to wrap up the deal.
Bautista's teammates were also talking about what it would mean to welcome Santana into the clubhouse in this Bob Elliott piece in the Toronto Sun. Edwin Encarnacion reminisced about the times he and the then Johan Santana stayed over at each other's houses during Little League--where they played Mario Brothers and ate mangos--and Jose Reyes called him a friend and gave a pro analysis about the situation.
"Ervin and I, we’re friends," said Reyes. "It would be good news if he signed here."
And if he signed with Baltimore?
"It would be bad news," Reyes said. "We’d face him and he’d be in our division."
The "Sign Santana" campaign is not limited to the Dominican clique, as the beard that is now controlling Adam Lind's mind offered the suggestion that the signing of Santana would enable the Blue Jays to keep prospects like Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman from being rushed. (The beard also suggested that the Jays could perhaps start Hutchison for the first half of the year, then replace him with Stroman if innings are an issue.)
On the other side of the coin, Santana also has his fans in the Baltimore clubhouse, including Ubaldo Jimenez, who has reportedly been in contact with his former free agent rival to talk about the Orioles.
No matter what your opinions are on Ervin Santana, I think you can appreciate the difficult position Alex Anthopoulos is in right now. During the entire offseason, Anthopoulos said that he wanted to bulk up his rotation, but not until the market drops, then later offered that he was hesitant at signing anyone to a long-term deal. Now that the market for Santana has dropped, and he is reportedly satisfied with a one-year deal, I don't know how Anthopoulos can justify not signing him if the Orioles do manage to pick him up on an affordable (perhaps incentive-rich) contract . Santana is not an ace and is not going to be the piece that proverbially pushes the Blue Jays over the top, but his signing will provide valuable depth behind R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow, prevent another American League East team from getting him, and importantly, show the Blue Jays players and fans that the front office is interested in improving the team because they believe in their chances at contention this season.
A public backlash would expected if Santana is lost to the Orioles, but one now wonders what the clubhouse would be like if the Blue Jays swing and miss on this one.