Don't Kill The Mellinger

What Matt Garza (maybe) signing does for the Royals (maybe) signing Ervin Santana

Updated: 2014-01-28T21:28:02Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

Matt Garza has either signed or is close to signing with the Brewers. The contract, reportedly, is or will be for around four years and $52 million. On the surface, at least, it is a nice bargain for the Brewers in the relative terms of major league baseball and around Kansas City has stirred up another round of our fourth favorite^ pastime this winter:

WHY CAN’T THE ROYALS SIGN ERVIN SANTANA!?!?!?

^ These rankings are unofficial, of course, but I have the Where’s Santana? game behind assorted aftershocks from a historic choke job , the unfair but very real cloud of expectation over Andrew Wiggins , and KCI truthers demanding a billion dollars be spent so they can buy a burrito and a necktie behind security.

The truth is, Garza signing somewhere else would not appreciably increase the Royals’ chances of signing Santana, who was fabulous in one season pitching in a big outfield and with fast outfielders — a context that perfectly fit his skill set and pitching style.

Before the offseason got going, Santana’s people floated a $100 million contract and I humbly suggested the Royals offer four years and $45 million. More recently, my friend Jeff Passan said Santana was looking for four years and $60 million. The Royals went shopping early, and signed the perfectly dependable, high floor, low ceiling Jason Vargas for four years and $32 million.

The Royals’ payroll is projecting to be somewhere around $90 million, which would be another franchise record, and expecting it to go higher is just unrealistic. That means signing Santana would almost certainly require a corresponding move to clear payroll. That’s a lot of moving parts that need to line up.

Santana has said he wants to settle down somewhere, and indications are that he has multiple offers from other teams for as many as three years. Before signing Vargas, this would be a different conversation but at this point I’d be surprised if the Royals went longer than one year on a deal for Santana and I’d be shocked if they went longer than two.

Part of the problem, on many levels, is the draft-pick compensation. The Royals stand to gain a high pick if someone else signs him, which means they’re more willing than they otherwise might be to let him walk. Also, the team that signs Santana will lose a draft pick, meaning they’re less willing to sign him and/or pay big money than they otherwise might be.

But also, remember that when the Royals "traded" for Santana last year, part of the concern was about his elbow. Well, whatever medical risk was in Santana’s elbow a year ago now has 211 innings of fastballs and sliders on top of it.

There is no above-board way for the Royals to sign him to a one-year contract that would include a promise of not tying a draft pick to his next free agency, even if both sides wanted such a thing.

The chances of the Royals signing Santana are higher than they were a month ago, only because he still hasn’t signed somewhere else.

Of course, you could say your chances of marrying Kate Upton (or George Clooney, depending on your preference) is higher now than a month ago, because they haven’t signed somewhere else either.

 

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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