The Braves rotation looked set a week ago, but now there are concerns that Kris Medlen will miss time with elbow ligament problems at the same time Atlanta is nervous that Brandon Beachy can't crack 90 miles per hour. With the Braves having to wait until both Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd return from their own injuries -- and you never know what will happen with recovering pitchers, as both Medlen and Beachy remind -- Atlanta has gone out and signed free agent starter Ervin Santana to a one-year deal, according to ESPN's Enrique Rojas. CBS Sports Jon Heyman reports that Santana will earn $14.1 million, the same value as the qualifying offer.
Santana has languished on the market all winter long, as he originally was looking for something in the $100 million range, a la Anibal Sanchez a year ago. The problem is that Santana doesn't have Sanchez's history of success: in the last five years, Santana has two seasons with ERA over five, despite pitching in extremely pitcher-friendly parks during that stretch. He's also had a pair of seasons with a 111 and 127 ERA+, the latter of those coming last year during his one-season stint with the Royals, so he's capable of good things, too. It's understandable that the market did not agree with Santana's self-valuation, though, especially since he also would cost a compensatory draft pick thanks to his qualifying offer status.
The Braves will give up their first-round pick and the draft budget that comes with it to sign Santana, a move that nets the Royals, who lost the right-hander, a sandwich-round first as compensation. The Braves can get that pick back in a year, though, if Santana does pitch well and shows the world he's far removed from the awful 2012 that caused him to be dealt to the Royals in the first place, by giving him the qualifying offer yet again, and waiting for someone to sign him. If he pitches poorly, the Braves likely have bigger issues to deal with than the loss of their 2014 first-round selection, given the questions in their rotation at present.
The Royals get their pick, and the Braves get their pitcher with upside who can conceivably replace Medlen, should his elbow injury become a long-term issue. The loser here is the Blue Jays, who have been trying to pry Santana from free agency all winter. When his demands finally fell into the range they had been waiting for, multiple other teams jumped in, and the Braves, being the most competitive of the bunch, ended up winning out. Now, the Jays have to hope that J.A. Happ can turn things around, that pitching prospect Marcus Stroman can figure out his change-up and adjust to the majors quickly once he's called up, and for all of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and Brandon Morrow to put their 2013 seasons behind them. In the highly competitive American League East, the Jays don't have much wiggle room -- a fact they know all too well after last season -- and losing out on Santana only underscores that.