When starting pitcher Kris Medlen left the mound Sunday, the Frank Wren knew they the Braves were in trouble. With the departure of veteran Tim Hudson to free agency, growing concerns about the health of Brandon Beachy, and a rotation rounded out with the inexperience of youth (Teheran, Wood, Hale), it was clear the Braves would need to make a move if they hoped to contend in the National League East.
Not taking much time at all, general manager Frank Wren moved quickly to get free agent Ervin Santana in for a physical. Santana, who had been rumored to be in talks with various teams including the Blue Jays and Mariners, was intrigued by the idea of pitching in the National League. It didn’t take long at all for the Braves to reach a deal. He flew from Arizona to Florida Tuesday, took his physical last night and signed with the club this morning.
The 1-year deal for Santana is worth $14.1 million. The Braves will lose the 26th slot in the MLB draft, which was worth $1,839,400 in 2013. If the Braves don’t re-sign Santana after the season, they’ll have the opportunity to gain a draft pick
Santana, 31, had a rebound season with the Kansas City Royals in 2013 after a tough go in 2012 with his long-time club the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Santana posted a 9-10 record with a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 32 starts (211 innings pitched). Over a 9-year career, he has a career 4.19 ERA, a winning 105-90 record, has had 5 seasons of 200+ innings and has pitched 14 complete games. His experience on the mound will be important to a young staff that features only 1 other veteran–Freddy Garcia (until, presumably Gavin Floyd returns from Tommy John surgery and joins the club).
The flip side of the Santana signing is the terrible news about clubhouse and fan favorite Kris Medlen. In this morning’s press conference, the Braves announced both the signing of Ervin Santana and the unfortunate news that Kris Medlen’s MRI revealed “involvement” of the elbow ligament that had previously been repaired. It seems a forgone conclusion at this point that Medlen is headed for his 2nd Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. It will be his 2nd elbow surgery in 4 years.
On top of the Medlen news, the Braves have been watching Brandon Beachy closely. He left his last spring training game early with soreness in his throwing arm. It was announced that he would miss his next spring start to rest that arm. Like Medlen, Beachy has a replaced ligament in his pitching elbow and returned for a short time last season from that surgery before needing an arthroscopic clean-out of his elbow shortly after. Beachy arrived at camp supposedly healthy, but his velocity has been way down (averaging 86-87 mph).
Also worth noting is that Mike Minor has been dealing with shoulder soreness recently. Camp for him got off to a slow start as he was unable to workout due to pain from a procedure on his urethra over the winter. A rotation that was likely to feature some combination of Medlen, Beachy, Minor, Teheran, Wood/Hale and possibly veteran Garcia will now feature Santana and Teheran for certain and hopefully some combination of Beachy, Minor, Wood/Hale and Garcia to round it out.
Frank Wren has had his work cut out for him this winter and never more than in the past 4 days. The old adage ‘when you think you have enough pitching, get more’ is once again confirmed.
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.