The last free agent temptation comes off the board


Mischievous Ervin. // Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ervin Santana is probably signing with the Orioles or Blue Jays this weekend. He’s probably not signing with the White Sox. For some that is frustrating, and I understand.

You might look at the White Sox roster and think “Ehhh, it’s getting there.” It is a better place to be in than previous times, but is still a situation where someone like Ervin Santana, rapidly reducing his contract demands as weeks of Spring Training whizzes by, is a tempting item.

That’s understandable. Squeezing above-average performance out of this year’s current group of starters might be Don Cooper‘s greatest trick yet. Even if we assume ace production from Chris Sale, Jose Quintana pitching like a No. 2 starter is still a singular occurrence that has evaluators scratching their heads, let alone a reliable year-to-year thing.

And then it gets dicey.

Erik Johnson is a rookie with a questionable ceiling. John Danks is trying to work back–with encouraging Spring results!–from career-altering shoulder surgery and Felipe Paulino is coming off six injury-shortened years in a row.

Ervin Santana could help this group, if for no other reason than he’s already thrown six 200-inning seasons and would shoulder a load that would otherwise fall on of Andre Rienzo, or gulp, Dylan Axelrod or an unready Chris Beck. It’s exhausting to hear reasons why teams shouldn’t do things or why players are not perfect. Santana would help.

But there are so many reasons why this is not their move to make. Free Agency is a bidding war after all, and the motivation that drove the Sox over other teams to claim Jose Abreu is not present here.

Just as Ervin Santana was not as bad as his atrocious 2012, he is not as good as his 2013 season. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher who had a fortunate year in Kauffman Stadium, and as reductionist as it sounds, if you average out those two years, you’re damn close to Santana’s career line of a 4.19 ERA.

He could help, but that’s something a lot less exciting to throws tens of millions at. If he comes to U.S. Cellular, he’ll have to work against a crazy mismatch to his pitching style just to maintain that, Coop and all.

But more than anything, for the Blue Jays–desperately trying to salvage last year’s disastrous power grab–or the Orioles–trying to max out Adam Jones and Chris Davis‘ primes with a pitching staff that just refuses to co-operate–Santana is a much more vital band-aid, a potentially crucial cog in a year with large ramifications for the directions of the franchise.

In Chicago he would make Robin Ventura‘s year easier. They would probably be better off keeping their second round pick, which is what Santana would cost them. They need their draft picks, and despite their reputation for conjuring starting pitchers out of nowhere, they’ll have a first and second round draft pick filling out their rotation this year, and maybe another second rounder before long (Beck).

There’s a clear direction there, and it’s not hard to see how it might be moving away from Ervin Santana.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan