The Orioles have signed left-handed free agent pitcher Johan Santana, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The minor-league deal is worth approximately $3 million. The deal was first said to be close on Monday by Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com.
Santana had been spotted in Orioles Spring Training yesterday (the deal includes an invite to Spring Training), so it was only a matter of time before he "tied the knot" with the club. The Venezuelan native worked out for seven teams last week (the Orioles were one of the teams). His fastball was unimpressive - Santana topped out 81 miles per hour while sitting at 77 to 78 miles an hour on average. In 2009, Santana's average fastball sat at 90.6 miles per hour.
Although the 34-year-old has some work to do, Santana is a good signing for the Orioles, who are looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012 season. They've already locked up Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz this offseason, and if Santana can be a reliable pitcher, he could be a valuable asset down the stretch, when he is finally back to strength.
As one of the best pitchers during his peak, Santana posted a 2.89 ERA and a 150 ERA+ (runs allowed adjusted above average to ballparks) in 1,670 2/3 innings from the 2003 to 2010 seasons. In that time, he went to four All Star games, won two Cy Young awards, and finished in the Cy Young award voting four other times. He was undoubtedly dominant.
Since then, Santana has never been the same. In 2011, Santana pitched only two times, and did not even pitch in the MLB. Those two starts, both rehab starts, came at High Single-A. In 2012, Santana was back with the Mets. His best start of the season came against the Cardinals, when he tossed the first no-hitter in Mets history. However, the Mets pushed Santana beyond his limits. He threw 134 pitches.
Since Santana's no-hitter on June 1, 2012, he has made just 10 starts. In those starts, Santana went 3-7 with a 8.27 ERA, while only striking out 43 in 49 innings pitched. Of those ten starts, Santana pitched past the fifth inning only thrice. The no-hitter, many believe, was the reason for this fast downfall.
And now, Santana will try to rebuild his career with the Orioles. Baseball fans will see if Santana is able to come back and pitch at the high level he has pitched at in the past. On a no-risk, high-reward signing with the Orioles, Johan Santana will get a chance to prove to people that his career is far from over. At 34, that is definitely possible, but with all he's been through, it's hard to imagine that he will be back to where he was just a few seasons ago.