In four days, the Diamondbacks' pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Then two days later, the Dodgers' pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Then, three days after that, the Indians' pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. You get it. However, there is one problem. Many top tier free agents are still on the free agent market.
Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, and Nelson Cruz are atop the list of the remaining free agents. Who knows where they could land? First of all, there are issues with many of the players. Santana, Jimenez, and Cruz each received qualifying offers, causing teams to give up a draft pick if they signed. Arroyo is nearly 37, and has a 4.19 ERA over his last three seasons, both of which could turn teams away. And Burnett has just decided to remain playing, adding to the headache even further.
Let's investigate Ervin Santana declining his qualifying offer and attempt to determine whether he should have taken his chance at $14 million next season. This late into the offseason, he does not have a contract.
The 31-year-old Santana from the Dominican Republic has asked for outrageous contracts this offseason, with him reportedly wanting over $100 million. Today is February 2nd, and the rumors on Santana have been relatively quiet. We really do not know who is interested, and who could really sign him. Why is that? Santana did post a highly respectable 3.24 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He had a K/BB rate of 161/51 (3.16) in 211 innings.
Assume Santana's next contract averages $20 million per season. The only pitchers that made $20 million or more in 2013 were Johan Santana, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, Barry Zito, and Matt Cain. Before you think, "Santana was better than half these pitchers last season!" But think about these players' careers in general. All except for Zito have had super successful careers, and have earned their contracts. I am arguing that their careers have been better than Santana's. Which could be another reason that teams are unwilling to pay that much money.
Santana's 2012 was not very good. He went 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP (74 ERA+), giving up a league-worst 39 home runs. That year, Santana had trouble getting past seven innings; only 11 of his 30 starts went past that number of innings. Over his career, Santana has a 4.19 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 268 games. This is decent, but does not not deserve $100 million. Santana is asking for too much for his worth.
So, yes, in my opinion, Ervin Santana definitely should have taken his qualifying offer. At this pace, Santana probably won't report to Spring Training on time, and might be a late signee. I doubt that he will sign within the next week. Yes Santana will be training, but not with a pitching coach, and not with a rotation. But, if Santana gets his $100 million, kudos to him for holding out this long. I doubt he gets that and is forced to take a pay cut. By taking the qualifying offer, it would end this headache, and Santana would be able to test the market again next offseason.