The Colorado Rockies face potential problems with their starting rotation and it isn’t even March yet. Jhoulys Chacin will be out at least a week and is behind schedule for the start of the season thanks to a strained right shoulder.
With that, the so-called solid options for the back of the rotation, guys like Juan Nicasio, Franklin Morales, Jordan Lyles, and Christian Friedrich, have that much more pressure thrust upon them. That’s not to mention the fact that they are one injury from the brittle combination of Brett Anderson and Jorge De La Rosa away from a five-alarm disaster. And let’s repeat…it’s not even March yet.
Let’s say for a moment that Colorado did sign Santana. Wouldn’t that be the move that Rockies fan long for? The front office would finally spend some money, right? They would go get a front line starting pitcher. Wouldn’t this signing answer the cries of distressed fans from many failed Rockies’ seasons past?
Thankfully the answer is no, as it seems that momentum in favor of a Santana signing was minimal as the team quickly squashed the report of their interest. With the news that the Rockies are not currently interested in Santana and were never more than fringe candidates to sign him, here are six reasons that they are wise to stay away:
1. The Money
Goes without saying, right? Other than the tired notion that the Monforts don’t spend enough, there is no rational person who thinks the Rockies should throw down this kind of cheddar for Santana…I don’t think. The Rockies were certainly never going to pay his initial asking price (five years, $100 million) and probably never going to pay the price that he is currently asking (four years, $50 million).
If Santana were to lower his asking price significantly, maybe the Rockies could talk, but that’s not going to happen.
2. A Jorge De La Rosa extension
Don’t forget this little order of business. De La Rosa is getting paid like royalty this season and while the number won’t be that big for an extension, it will still cost the Rockies plenty of money if they start negotiations. The Rockies do have money to spend but they still have to pick their spots, and I’ll pick De La Rosa, please. The Rockies were never going to pay Santana the big number he wanted, but consider this another reminder why.
3. The Draft Pick
The Rockies’ 1st round pick (8th overall) is protected, but they would still be hardpressed to justify giving up the 34th pick in the draft.
4. Fear of Fly Balls
Among the reasons for Santana’s success in 2013 were drops in his home run to flyball ratio (12. 4% HR/FB) and his flyball percentage (32.9 FB%). Those were vast improvements over his 18.9% HR/FB ratio and 37.3 FB% from 2012. For a guy who does not strike out a ton of hitters (6.87 K/9 in 2013), the Rockies do not want to invite the return of those flyball numbers from 2012 with Santana pitching half of his games at Coors Field.
We went down that road with Jeremy Guthrie and poor, poor Guillermo Moscoso, remember? Santana has better stuff than those two, and perhaps the team’s current obsession with groundball pitchers is getting overblown. Even still, the Rockies do not want to invest the money, years, and draft pick into a guy who has those red flags for their situation.
5. Faith in Nicasio and Lyles
Gulp. I did really just type that. Whether you are skeptical or not, the Rockies built part of their off-season around the notion that one of these pitchers (or both) would factor into the plans in 2014 and beyond. Presuming 2014 is not a season in which the Rockies contend, it will be valuable time for Lyles (age 23) to grow up and for Nicasio to figure out whether he is a starter or a reliever. (*Note: I picked these two because I believe they are just a tick more important in terms of the starting rotation plan than Franklin Morales or Christian Friedrich).
6. Faith in Butler and Gray
The Rockies don’t do rentals. Even if Santana was willing to take a one-year “pillow deal” and it became a good value, the Rockies would likely want to sign him for multiple years given their general struggles to attract free agent pitching talent. For these upcoming years the Rockies have already put their faith in blue chip prospects Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray (and hopefully not too much pressure on them).
In order for the Rockies to remedy their recent failure to develop quality pitching, they need to actually give pitchers a chance to develop. Trading for a quality arm like Brett Anderson is one thing, but unnecessarily signing a risky free agent like Santana, even with his potential upside, is entirely another.
Santana might find a good fit and be worth the deal he gets, but he would have had to work hard to avoid being a bust in Colorado. It’s best for both parties that a deal is unlikely.