Ervin Santana free agency: Pitcher unlikely to beat Garza's deal, per report

Jamie Squire

Santana may have to settle for as little as three years and $40 million.

Free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana will likely get a smaller contract than the one signed by Matt Garza on Sunday, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune.

At the beginning of the offseason, Santana was reportedly seeking a five-year deal worth $112 million. However, a market failed to form for the 31-year-old right-hander while prospective suitors waited for a conclusion to the Masahiro Tanaka saga. Now that Garza has signed with the Brewers for four years and $52 million, Santana could be next in line for a big payday.

Not so fast, says Dutton. His sources claim that Santana is unlikely to exceed three years and $40 million on his next contract, and it's possible that the deal could be even smaller. One reason for the decreased sticker price could be the fact that whichever team signs Santana will lose a top draft pick as compensation due to the fact that he rejected a qualifying offer from his previous team.

Another reason could be the hurler's inconsistent performance over the years. Although Santana posted ERA's of 3.24 in 2013 and 3.38 in 2011, they were sandwiched around an ugly 5.16 mark in 2012. Indeed, he has finished with an ERA over 5 in two of the last five seasons, which could be a red flag for teams considering a long-term commitment. However, in a market governed by the principle of "what have you done for me lately," Santana's strong 2013 season is a powerful negotiating tool.

For his part, Santana is now reportedly seeking a four-year, $60 million deal, which is a significant mark-down from his previous nine-figure demands but still quite a bit more than Dutton's prediction. Of course, if Santana can't get the multi-year contract that he wants, then he could always roll the dice on a one-year show-me deal to prove that his 2013 performance wasn't a mirage; that tactic recently worked for Edwin Jackson, who parlayed a strong season in Washington into a $52 million deal with the Cubs last winter. At the moment, the Blue Jays and Orioles seem to be the teams most interested in Santana's services, but Dutton notes that more clubs could enter the fray if the price drops as low as he believes it will.

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