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Santana vs Jimenez

Now that Matt Garza has signed with the Brewers for $50MM for 4 years plus incentives the best two remaining free agent SP on the market are Ervin Santana & Ubaldo Jimenez. Both free agents have been linked to numerous teams including the Blue Jays, Yankees, Orioles, Angles, Mariners and many more. Lets break down both of them.

Contract Expectations:

Santana: Recently Santana’s price has gone down from around $100MM and is looking for a contract of $60mm over 4 years. Mlbtraderumors.com ranked Santana as the #6 2014 FA and projected him to make $75MM over 5 years.

Jimenez: His current asking price is not known, he was ranked #11 by MLBTR and projected to get a contract around $52MM over 4 years. Both could end up signing a deal on a similar AAV, so the dollars and years might not differ greatly.

2013 results:

Santana:  9-10,  3.24 ERA,  211.0 IP,  161 SO,  51 BB,  1.142 WHIP,  127 ERA+,  2.9 WAR

Jimenez: 13-9,  3.30 ERA,  182.2 IP,  194 SO, 80 BB,   1.330 WHIP,  114 ERA+,  2.7 WAR

Both had good season in 2013 that resulted in similar results, Jimenez got a few more wins, racked up some K’s but had the lower park adjusted ERA. Santana delivered an extra 30 innings while limited the damage with very few walks.

Career & Trends

Santana: At 31 he has 9 seasons on his arm, generally is consistent in giving around 200IP or more, low BB rates, has career ERA+ of 100 and gets the job done at in an unspectacular fashion. He is a workhorse you are going to count on for lots of innings and most nights give you a chance to pick up a win. At $15MM per year you are paying for exactly that, not an ace, not elite but slightly above average most of the time.

As any pitcher Santana has some flaws, the main areas for concern would be his HR rates, hit/9 and if can adjust as his stuff declines into his mid-30’s. If a team plays in a hitter friendly park and especially one that indexes high on HR’s those concerns might play a factor in their decision. In 2012 Santana allowed 39 HR, had an ERA of 5.19 which are not numbers of a pitcher looking for $15MM per season. Also his draft compensation will be an issue for many teams who do not have protected picks. However, he has shown consistency and teams might pay the price for those 200 innings and look at 2012 as an outlier over the past 4 years.

Jimenez: At 30 Jimenez has played in parts of 8 seasons, has been good for about 180-200 IN per season, SO/9 rates around 8-9, career park adjusted ERA+ of 112. Jimenez had a nice 2013 season after a poor showing between 2011-2012. He has shown himself to be a high ceiling pitcher having generated a 7.5 WAR season in 2010 and 16.9 WAR from 2008-2010. He however lacks the consistency that Santana has shown.

Cause for concern would be his career BB/9 rate of 4.0. The Blue Jays have been a know suitor for Jimenez and might also consider his poor performances to date agains the Red Sox & Yankees. Those are teams that can work a count and can punish pitchers for too many BB. However he has shown well against the Rays & Orioles. His AAV  expectation of around $15MM and request for 4 years might be met. Again Jimenez also has a draft pick compensation attached to him as the Indians gave him a qualifying offer. Your taking more risk on Jimenez but have potential to see a higher reward.

Conclusion:

Both of these pitchers are victims of “draft compensation” as many teams are valuing the draft at a greater level. Many of the elite pitchers are not making it to the open market as teams want to buy up their own assets, see Clayton Kershaw recent signing!  Both are a similar value but teams that play in a pitcher friendly park, have a strong defense and want an innings eater would value Santana more. Teams that value the ability to strike out guys and want to bet on his upside might prefer Jimenez.

Both are nice pitchers to have and soon enough they will find a team willing to pay the price and potentially offer up a draft pick.

My Guess:

Santana: Orioles or Royals – 4 years at $58MM + $16MM team option with $2MM buyout

Jimenez: Blue Jays or Mariners – 3 years $46MM + $15MM vesting option