Ervin Santana is more durable than Matt Garza, more reliable than Ubaldo Jimenez and flat-out better than Ricky Nolasco.
Each of those pitchers received four-year, free-agent contracts between $48 million and $50 million last offseason.
True, Garza and Nolasco benefited from the lack of a qualifying offer. But if you want to know why Santana is likely to reject the Braves’ $15.3 million QO on Monday — even after getting burned by the same strategy last offseason — start with how those other pitchers fared financially.
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The difference now with Santana is that he isn’t asking for $100 million, a number that turned off many clubs last winter (Santana since has left his previous agency, Proformance, and hired Jay Alou as his representative).
He also is coming off another season of good health, having pitched 196 innings for the Braves despite missing the first month of spring training while waiting to sign his one-year, $14 million deal.
Well, Santana’s last trip to the DL ended on July 3, 2009. Since then, only Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and James Shields have thrown more innings without logging DL time.
Is Santana, who turns 32 on Dec. 12, elite? No, and his 3.95 ERA last season, when adjusted to his park and league, actually qualified as below-average. That measure, though, might have been misleading; Santana’s fielding-independent pitching mark was his best since 2008.
He has had five 200-inning seasons and another with 196. And while he is older than Garza, Jimenez and Nolasco were last offseason, he certainly should merit a three-year deal on the open market, if not quite the four-year contract that the others did.