Today is February 16. The last few teams' pitchers and catchers have reported for duty as Spring Training is almost underway. Two of the best free agents, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, have yet to sign on with a team. I recently asked myself if Santana should have taken his qualifying offer due to the lack of serious interest from many teams. The same could go for Jimenez as well.
The pitchers' sweepstakes have finally started to intensify. The Yankees, Orioles, Mariners, and Blue Jays are all showing interest in these pitchers. I ultimately see the Mariners ending up with Santana and the Blue Jays ending up with Jimenez. However, I pose the question: Who needs Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez the most?
Let's start with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners' pitchers allowed the fifth-most runs in the Major Leagues in 2013. Behind ace Felix Hernandez and All Star Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners' starting rotation posted ERA+'s of 70, 64, and 59/74 (split fifth starter's role), respectivelly. Ervin Santana posted a very good 127 ERA+ in 2013, while also racking up 211 innings. The Mariners rotation was ugly behind Hernandez and Iwakuma. This offseason, they've done nothing to improve upon it, which is why I think they will sign Santana when it is all set and done. We've seen that they are willing to spend, and this was definitely an issue for them. Expect the Mariners to make a starting pitching move this offseason, which I believe will be Santana.
The New York Yankees just recently showed interest in Santana. This puzzles me. We know the Yankees are willing to spend, but they've got a pretty good rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, and David Phelps. As a total, Yankees pitchers posted a 103 ERA+, just 2% above the league average. Yankees starters finished 18th in the MLB in ERA and 13th in innings pitched. However, they lost Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes this offseason, and gained Masahiro Tanaka. In a hitter's park, however, the Yankees should focus on hitting. They have done exactly that this offseason, signing Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann. Signing Ervin Santana nor Ubaldo Jimenez doesn't make sense to me, but the Yankees can, and will, do whatever they want.
The Baltimore Orioles are focusing in on a smaller payroll, so I believe Santana or Jimenez will end up a tad bit out of their reach. Signing Suk-Min Yoon this offseason seems to be their prize, and likely will be their last rotation piece. The Orioles' staff posted a 100 ERA+ in 2013, just 1% below the league average. One alarming thought, however, is that the Orioles finished 27th in the MLB in starters' ERA. Jason Hammel, whom posted the lowest ERA+ of the rotation, is no longer with the club. Bud Norris, whom was traded from the Astros to the Orioles at the trade deadline, is likely to have a good season. And now the Orioles get Yoon, a top Korean pitching prospect. In my view, the Orioles are set in 2014.
And finally, we have the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays pitchers averaged 30.9-years-old in 2013. They allowed 4.67 runs per game, 4.26 of which were earned runs. The Jays' rotation consisted of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, J.A. Happ, Josh Johnson (now with San Diego), and Todd Redmond. Zero of these pitchers posted an ERA+ over 100. Zero. Although Buehrle and Dickey tossed over 200 innings, none of the other three threw over 100. Buehrle led the staff in ERA with a 4.15 mark. Nobody on this staff could allow less than 4 runs a game. Also Happ and Johnson were hampered by injuries. The Blue Jays starters' as a whole posted a 4.81 ERA. The Blue Jays have made zero starting pitching moves. Zero. They will need either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez to turn this staff around.
As you can see, the Blue Jays are in dire need of a starting pitcher, so I believe they will ultimately sign Ubaldo Jimenez. They've shown more interest in Jimenez than Santana, and more teams are interested in signing Santana. They will end up with Ubaldo Jimenez. For Santana, I said earlier that I thought the Mariners would sign him, and now you can see how bad their rotation was behind their studs in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Consider the Yankees in the least need of a pitcher, while the Orioles could sign a pitcher, but I believe it remains unlikely that they sign Santana or Jimenez.