KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Right-hander Ervin Santana is exactly the pitcher the Royals envisioned they were getting when general manager Dayton Moore traded for him last fall.
And at some point this summer, Moore and the Royals will have to decide if he is a pitcher they envision in a Royals uniform beyond 2013.
Santana is in the final year of the contract he originally signed with the Angels, a deal that will pay him $13 million this season (the Royals received $1 million from the Angels in the deal).
But while it is only May and too early for either Santana or the Royals to make any proclamations about the future, it is clear that Santana fits the mold of what Moore and the Royals look for in a starter: A durable innings-eater with a big-time strikeout pitch.
Santana, 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA, is averaging over seven innings per start and has 31 strikeouts in 36 innings. Those number might look even more impressive if not for Thursday’s eventual rainout that erased four more shutout innings from Santana’s log along with seven strikeouts.
“This is the guy our scouts saw last summer,” Moore told FOX Sports Kansas City. “They saw a guy who was very level-headed, who went deep into games and had a slider that was an excellent strikeout pitch.
“He’s been as advertised and been a major upgrade to our rotation.”
Whether or not that means Moore will ask owner David Glass to reach for his check book again remains to be seen.
The Royals already are sporting a franchise-record payroll that is pushing $80 million. But over $20 million of that is tied up in deals with Santana ($12 million), Jeff Francoeur ($6.75 million) and Bruce Chen ($4.5 million), all of whom will become free-agents.
The payroll will go up marginally because of arbitration-eligible players such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, and because other guaranteed contracts have yearly escalators.
But there may be enough money with the departures of Chen and Francoeur to at least make Santana a tempting offer.
Naturally, Moore is hesitant to say much now.
“It’s so early and we’re still finding out more about each other,” Moore said. “It really doesn’t do the organization any good to discuss (a potential deal) publicly.”
Santana, too, is reluctant to say too much about the future. He knows this free-agent year is huge for him, and he knows the financial consequences. A big year can set him up for one more huge contract.
So far, he likes Kansas City and he likes the Royals.
“It’s pretty good,” he said. “But I don’t know. I just want to feel comfortable with my teammates and the manager and the organization.
“Right now, it’s very good. I like my teammates and my manager. We’re winning and that’s all that matters.”
Just how the Royals compare with the only other organization he has known – the Angels – is best left unsaid.
“I really don’t want to talk about the past or the Angels,” he said. “I’m here now. This is good.”
While playing for a team in a warm-weather city would be nice, Santana said that it’s not a huge consideration when he thinks about his future. Kansas City isn’t exactly a cold-weather city, though this unusual spring (a May snowstorm during his last start) may lead some to think so.
“I don’t really think about the weather,” he said. “If I have to pitch in cold weather, I’ll pitch in it. If I have to pitch in hot weather, I’ll pitch in it. Weather is not really a factor. The last couple of outings have been really cold and I did OK in those.”
So what will be the deciding factors for Santana when he seeks his next contract?
“The main thing is I want to feel good about my teammates and manager and be winning. I like the way they treat their players here and the way they treat their families.