Before there was the Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel sagas, players had been affected by the Qualifying Offer for the greater part of a decade. The Qualifying Offer was implemented into baseball in 2012, and Braves One Year Wonder, Ervin Santana was one of the earlier cases of how a QO could affect a player’s marketability.
Braves One Year Wonder, Ervin Santana’s Journey to Atlanta
In 2013, Santana had a great walk year with Kansas City. He pitched 211 innings, 3.24 ERA, 3.93 FIP, and since his age-23 season, he had averaged 194 IP. Santana felt like he was looking at a multi-year deal, but Kansas City offered him the QO, he declined it, and a non-ace like Santana sat on the market. While he had been a very durable starter, he was not the ace-type pitcher that teams would be willing to not only give a 5+ year deal to while also forfeiting a high draft pick. After all, he was also entering his age-34 season, and teams were already starting to get wise to the aging starting pitcher with a lot of mileage on his arm.
You’ll remember that the Braves had one of the worst Spring Trainings in memory in regards to starting pitching help. Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor all were on the disabled list by early March (2 elbows, 1 shoulder). Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm had already left as free agents, Minor and Medlen had both made 30 starts the year before, and the Braves were hoping for a bounce-back season from Beachy, who had been injured off and on the previous two seasons. Instead, they had none of them. So on March 12th, Santana was still available, and the Braves grabbed him for the equivalent of the qualifying offer, losing their first-round draft pick in the process.
Braves One Year Wonder, Ervin Santana: Braves Fell Short, but Ervin was Great
The Braves would not make the playoffs that year, and this debacle was largely the justification for The Great Rebuild, but Santana had a very good year. He finished the season with a 3.94 ERA and a 3.39 FIP in his first (and only, to date) year in the National League, but more importantly, he pitched 196 innings and made 31 starts for a team in desperate need of stability in the rotation.
And Santana ultimately got what he wanted. He would go back to the American League the next offseason, signing a 4-year, $54M deal with the Twins. Teams’ suspicious about whether he was worth a 5+ year deal were eventually proved to have been justified as Santana only made 30 starts twice in his 4-year stint with the Twins, instead only making a total of 75 starts across that stretch. But hey, he was a one year wonder for us!
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