Injuries made right-hander Santana must-have for Braves

Ervin Santana went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 32 starts for Kansas City last season.

Charlie Riedel/AP

Quick thoughts on the Braves’ signing of free-agent right-hander Ervin Santana to a one-year contract Wednesday:

• The Braves had little choice but to act given the uncertainty surrounding right-handers Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, who is preparing for his his second Tommy John surgery in five years. But interesting, isn’t it, how they came up with $14.1 million when they were said to be near their budget limit of just under $100 million?

When clubs indicate they are out of money, it means in many cases that they simply do not want to spend more. Scott Boras, who represents the two remaining comp free agents, shortstop Stephen Drew and designated hitter Kendrys Morales, is banking on other teams reacting like the Braves if needs arise.

• Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos looked like he was on the verge of a coup when the Jays were the apparent front-runner for Santana. Anthopoulos had waited all offseason for a bargain on a starting pitcher, and his strategy seemed likely to pay off.

The Braves’ sudden urgency, however, demonstrated the risk of a GM waiting out the market and effectively getting too cute. Not that Santana was necessarily the answer for the Jays – he has a 4.86 career ERA in 457 1/3 innings against the AL East – but the team’s rotation without him remains a major question.

• As I wrote on Sunday, Santana is betting on himself, viewing his one-year, $14.1 million deal as at least two years at about $30 million, assuming he is healthy enough and effective enough to merit another qualifying offer.

The risk, of course, is that Santana will suffer an injury or pitch poorly, but he rejected three-year offers in the $27 million to $33 million range from the Orioles and Twins, believing he could do better over two years.

• Finally, for all the whispers about Santana’s elbow, it says something that the Braves exceeded their budget to sign him at a time when they were worried about Beachy and Medlen; they’re surely in no mood to blow $14.1 million on another starting pitcher.

Santana, 31, is not guaranteed to stay healthy; no pitcher is. The sprained UCL that Santana suffered in 2009 perhaps makes him a greater risk than most. But again, the pitcher himself evidently is confident that he will be fine. He flew to Florida on Tuesday and took his physical with the Braves that night.