The Minnesota Twins finally mattered in December.
They got their front-line starter they desperately needed by signing Ervin Santana. More importantly, they got their guy at the height of the hot-stove season, right at the tail end of the winter meetings when the bulk of wheeling and dealing is done and trades and free agent signings can alter the course for a franchise in the matter of 5 days. This was not an 11th hour dumpster-dive signing like we have come to expect as fans of the Twins.
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I’m not going to lie…I’m excited about this signing and what it means for the Minnesota Twins for the next four years.
Unlike the team’s other free agency splash this offseason, this move was made for baseball purposes, it was a signing that made sense, and a signing that mattered. Santana is an instant upgrade over 80% of the 2013 pitching rotation (with Phil Hughes being the lone exception). He has a hard breaking slider that strikes out batters, something that Twins pitchers (again, with the exception being Hughes) have struggled to do. He has been durable throughout his career so the hope is that he will be ready and available to take the mound every fifth day. (One caveat: The same was said about last year’s free agent splash Ricky Nolasco who spent time on the disabled list in 2014.) Most importantly, Santana has a long successful resume against American League rosters, something that could not be said of many of the rotation additions the past 7 years (Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Jason Marquis, et al.)
Not only does this signing improve the front of the Twins’ rotation, it immediately improves the back-end of it as well. As any fan can tell you, injuries have been especially hard on the Twins’ pitching staff the past few years. When they have hit in the past, the team has been forced to bring up marginal talent to fill-in start as needed. Players like Scott Diamond, Andrew Albers, and Kris Johnson are nice stories, but have had little place on a major league roster for an extended length of time. The Twins, with new depth in the rotation, will now have pitchers like Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey available to fill-in should an injury occur. No matter what you think about those players, they are still a vast upgrade from what was available before. Adding talent like Santana’s affects the entire staff, and that should be celebrated.
What he brings to the staff aside, the biggest reason that fans should be excited is that general manger Terry Ryan finally stepped up to the plate and took a swing. For too long, we have sat and watched as teams made headlines and upgrades to their rosters during November and December while our team sat idly by. We watched as division foes addressed their deficiencies through trades and free agency while the Twins fell back on patience and hope in prospects that were years away from playing at Target Field. In signing Santana when they did, the Twins provided the needed spark to a fanbase’s fire that had gone dark.
And for the first time in quite some time, I as a Twins fan will celebrate the New Year wondering what the next move will be and not wondering if the Twins will make a move at all. No matter what happens next, that in itself is worth celebrating.
Until next time….