With three-fifths of their starting rotation suddenly questionable for the start of the regular season, the Atlanta Braves might just jump into the ever-expanding Ervin Santana sweepstakes, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The forearm of right-hander Kris Medlen reportedly is being examined Monday by a Braves specialist, and results of an MRI have not been released yet. Another right-hander, Brandon Beachy, has lost speed on his fastball and reports discomfort in his right elbow — though he says he's feeling different sensations than those from his Tommy John injury. The team's ace in 2013, left-hander Mike Minor, is having setbacks with his shoulder after undergoing urinary tract surgery during the offseason that already had delayed him this spring.
Here's what O'Brien says about Santana, whose free agency has taken much longer than expected. He's reportedly being pursued by the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins. And maybe another:
Initially I didn’t think there was anything to the idea of the Braves pursuing him, but now with Beachy having more issues (he left today’s start against the Phillies after two innings due to biceps tightness), I’m hearing from a person connected to the Royals that the Braves are making a run at the free agent. How serious that is, I don’t know yet.
Realistically, with Santana supposedly asking for at least $14 million in a one-year offer and with the Twins reportedly having a three-year offer of about $33 million on the table for Santana, I couldn’t see the Braves going $10 million over their budget to bring in a guy who’s been inconsistent in recent years and has had some elbow concerns of his own.
The alternative, if the news is bad on Medlen and Beachy, is Atlanta beginning the season with a starting rotation that made a combined 21 career starts after Julio Teheran — who made 30 himself. Left-hander Alex Wood has a share of those starts.
"Thank God we signed Freddy Garcia," manager Fredi Gonzalez has said of another pitcher with experience.
The Braves also have Gavin Floyd in camp, but he's recovering from Tommy John and isn't expected to be ready to join a rotation until May at the earliest.
O'Brien is right about Santana's elbow (but the issues have been minor, relatively speaking) and he is inconsistent. But if $14 million and going over their budget is the price of doing business, the Braves probably will do business with Santana.
As for Santana's best interests, they probably lie in Atlanta, as Corey Seidman writes at CSN Philly, no matter how much Canadian pizza Santana is gifted. He's going to have better numbers pitching most of his games against the National League, and about half of his starts in pitcher-friendly Turner Field. He also doesn't have nearly the exposure to NL batters, having spent his entire major league career in the AL.
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