Free agent pitchers Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are getting the ball rolling on their offseasons by giving teams a clear idea just what they are looking for in a deal this winter. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Santana is looking for a $100 million deal and Nolasco is seeking $80 million.
It is hard to take these numbers seriously since the period in which teams can negotiate with players is just starting and neither player has a particularly strong track record before 2013.
Pitching for the Royals, the 30-year old Santana was well-above average this past season with a 3.26 ERA over 211 innings, but he has been wildly inconsistent in his career, posting an ERA over 5.00 three times in his nine-year career. His career 4.19 ERA is league average and advanced metrics like FIP suggest he might even be slightly worse than that. He also will cost teams a draft pick as a result of the qualifying offer he received from Kansas City. Last offseason, players like Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn and Rafael Soriano saw the market services dramatically reduced by this added cost.
Nolasco, also 30 years old, began the 2013 season with the Marlins before joining the Dodgers via trade in early July. His 3.70 ERA over 199 innings with the two clubs last season was basically league average. He has flashed some impressive strikeout abilities at times, but those numbers have declined since their 2009 peak. His 4.37 career ERA is below league average, but both FIP and xFIP view him as slightly better than that. Unlike Santana, Nolasco does not carry draft pick compensation, because players must be with one team for the entire season before reaching free agency to be eligible for the qualifying offer.
In a weak starting pitcher market, both players should have no trouble finding long-term deals, but the numbers Rosenthal is hearing are completely unrealistic for two pitchers who are basically mid-to-back-of-the-rotation arms. Rosenthal points out that last offseason, just one free agent pitcher, 2010 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, topped $100 million last season (earning six years/$147 million) and the next highest deal was Anibal Sanchez's five-year, $80 million deal with the Tigers. The numbers coming from Santana and Nolasco are more likely an anchoring technique their agents are employing to set the starting point for negotiations as high as possible.