There are a lot of things left to do this offseason, and a lot of different approaches to take. Want to spend $.2 billion on one guy? There's Max Scherzer. Want to spend about 40 percent less, but still get a mighty fine pitcher? There's James Shields. Want to focus on lineup help and go even cheaper on an average-ish pitcher? There's Brandon McCarthy, Jake Peavy, Justin Masterson, or Aaron Harang.
There's exactly one thing that wouldn't make sense: Spending a significant amount of money on an average-ish pitcher, limiting the Giants both this year and next. That pitcher exists. His name is Ervin Santana, and he scares the heck out of me. He should scare you, too.
The rumors are strong the Giants and Santana. I'm proud to announce that I've heard from two #sources that the Giants are sniffing around. But don't take it from someone as untrustworthy as me. Here's a real rumormonger:
The #SFGiants are talking to Ervin Santana's reps today at the winter meetings.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 10, 2014
No, no, no, no, no. No. Here's a comparison between two pitchers:
|Player X since 2011||Player Y since 2011|
|ERA+ (just 2014)||87||92|
Player Y is better, but only by a bit. Both are free agents. Player X will probably get a one-year deal. Player Y is Santana, and he's asking for a five-year deal (but will probably get something closer to three, like Francisco Liriano).
Player X is Ryan Vogelsong. He would be about $20 million to $50 million cheaper, depending on how wacky this market gets. The Giants would be paying all that money and losing the #19 pick for someone who is basically Vogelsong.
The worst part is that Santana wasn't really that good last year. It's not like he's entering free agency with the Burnsian momentum of a runaway freight train. He was adequate last year. His strikeout rate jumped a little -- probably because his teammates were striking out against him somehow, padding his numbers -- but he wasn't anything special. His similarity scores on Baseball-Reference give you a great idea of what kind of pitcher he's been: Brad Penny, Matt Morris, Mark Portugal, Pete Harnisch. Guys who started fast, and then settled into the pleasant-contributor zone as they got older.
Santana isn't a bad pitcher, don't get me wrong. All things being equal, I'd be delighted with him in the rotation. But only in that Jake Peavy/Vogelsong kind of things-could-be-worse way. You don't pay scores of millions for a things-could-be-worse pitcher. You don't forfeit the opportunity to upgrade even more with a better pitcher. You don't give up a solid, mid-round pick.
Of course, interest in Santana could help the Giants in negotiations with Shields, McCarthy, and the like. Never trust rumors at face value. Never trust rumors. Never trust.
But if they're seriously interested in Santana as an offseason improvement? Woof. It might be the only way the Giants could screw up.