Flanny: Losing Santana wouldn't be end of the world

Should Royals try to keep Ervin Santana? Sure. Are they sunk without him? Nope. Flanny explains why.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As soon as the World Series ends, the clock starts ticking on whether the Royals will be able to retain right-hander Ervin Santana.


The Royals will have five days after the Series concludes to extend Santana a qualifying offer (roughly around $14 million), and general manager Dayton Moore already has indicated to me that the Royals will do so.


But that is more of a safety-net measure: If Santana then signs with another team, the Royals will get a compensatory first-round draft pick in 2014.


And don't expect Santana to sign that qualifying offer. Santana's agent, Bean Stringfellow, told me by phone this week that Santana indeed will test the free-agent waters, which doesn't exclude the Royals and Santana from negotiating their own long-term deal.


I just don't think the odds are in the Royals' favor. Moreover, I don't think that's necessarily a horrible thing.


Look, I like Santana personally and have tremendous respect for his talent. He was a joy to cover last summer. He was always approachable in the clubhouse, he got along tremendously with his teammates, and he put together one of the best seasons of his career in 2013 -- 211 innings, a 3.24 ERA and a 1.142 WHIP.


There is little doubt that Santana will get paid handsomely for those numbers, probably somewhere around $60 million for four years, maybe even higher.


Truth be told, I believe Santana would prefer to stay in Kansas City. He has told me repeatedly he loves playing here. He likes his teammates, he likes the organization, he loves pitching at spacious Kauffman Stadium, and he loves pitching with one of the best defenses in baseball behind him.


Santana also has fallen for the city itself and its people. He has become a Twitter fanatic, and often relates with fans through funny tweets. He is even tweeting encouraging words for the Chiefs these days.

Some observers believe Santana's Twitter obsession is simply a ploy -- encouraged by his handlers -- to win the hearts and minds of Royals fans, who could, in turn, put pressure on the Royals to keep him here.


"Nah, that is who Ervin is," Stringfellow said. "I have nothing to do with his tweets. I'm not a Twitter guy."


But even with the mutual admiration of Santana and Royals fans, chances are, a large-market team will swoop in and trump whatever offer the Royals can muster.


And again, I don't think that's so bad.


The Royals, as a small-market team, must constantly be in the mode of making low-risk, high-reward acquisitions. Santana himself was such an acquisition last winter when Moore got him from the Angels for minor league pitcher Brandon Sisk.


As Moore has told me often, "No one much liked the deal when we made it. But it worked out pretty well. Now we have to keep making more deals like that. They're out there."




If Santana takes a better deal elsewhere -- and he should, because he will be 31 in December and deserves what could be his monster payday -- he certainly will be tough to replace.


But if Moore and his staff can make such a deal once, they can do so again. There are always players or pitchers out there ready to have bounce-back years if they simply get placed in the right environment. That's what happened last season in Pittsburgh with Francisco Liriano.


Maybe this is the year the Royals take a chance with Shaun Marcum, who was dreadful (5.29 ERA) for the Mets last year but would be a cheap ($4 million last season) and low-risk gamble. Or maybe the Royals can pry left-hander Scott Kazmir ($1 million base salary last season) away from the Indians.


In the big picture, Moore simply must buy a little more time before his own farm system can start regularly producing rotation candidates. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura already are being counted on for next season. Kyle Zimmer likely will get a shot, too. And maybe Chris Dwyer or John Lamb can take the next step very soon.


And the next wave after that includes Miguel Almonte, Sam Selman, Jason Adam or perhaps even Sean Manaea, last year's second first-round pick.


And here's another reason losing Santana wouldn't be the worst thing for the Royals: As hard as it could be for the Royals to replace his numbers from last season, it might be just as hard for Santana to duplicate them.


If the Royals had the Yankees' budget and could afford to make financial mistakes, overpaying for Santana and keeping him would be a no-brainer, for the same reason Moore acquired him in the first place: Santana is a solid pitcher, a good teammate, he gobbles up innings, and he's capable of a 3.24 ERA season.


But re-signing Santana makes sense only if the Royals can make it work within their modest budget.


You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.