Now that Matt Garza has signed with Milwaukee, it would appear the bar has been set for teams going after Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana -- or both.
Garza landed a four-year deal with the Brewers worth $50 million that could jump to five years and $67 million with an option year and performance bonuses. The general feeling being that Garza is the best pitcher of the three and didn't have a draft pick compensation attached to his signing. The Blue Jays, for instance, would have to give up a second round pick if they sign either Santana or Jimenez.
Initially, I believed Santana would be a better choice for the Jays. After all, he has spent his entire career in the American League and has pitched at least 200 innings in five of eight seasons, including three of the last four. Inconsistency has plagued him, though Santana gave up a league-leading 39 home runs in 2012 and had a 5.16 ERA. He did have a bounce back year in 2013 with the Royals, though reducing his ERA to 3.24 and increasing his percentage of ground ball outs.
Further to the plus side, Santana has thrown a no-hitter, has been an all-star and pitched in the postseason with the Angels and injuries have not been a problem the last four years. He's also just 31-years-old. Santana is also represented by the Richmond Virginia agency, Proformance, which counts among its clients Jose Bautista.
Jimenez is a year younger at 30 and has had more dramatic peaks and valleys in his career than Santana. After peaking in 2010 with Colorado, when he went (19-8) with a 2.88 earned run average and struck out 214 while earned all-star honours, Jimenez came apart in 2011 with the Rockies and was ultimately traded to Cleveland where he continued to struggle.
The Tribe's pitching coach, Mickey Calloway, worked hard with Jimenez and in the second half of last season he pitched like an ace, lowering his ERA to 3.30 and striking out 9.6/9 innings. Jimenez over his career has walked more than Santana but has also given up fewer home runs. He has a wider pitching repertoire than Santana and over the course of his career at various times has hit 100 MPH on the radar gun. Jimenez pitched in the postseason in the National League and essentially was the man who got Cleveland into that Wild Card game last season.
Jimenez is represented by SFX, which is the baseball division of Relativity Sports. SKX represents Adam Lind, Kyle Drabek Chris Getz (just signed by the Jays) and Munenori Kawasaki. Jimenez has been fairly durable over his career but hasn't put the number of 200 inning seasons that Santana has.
Jimenez has been a staff ace, while at his best Santana has been a two or a three. I still think the Blue Jays would lean towards Santana for his durability and larger body of American League experience, but Jimenez could carry over what he did in the second half of last season and he could be the Jays' number one or two starter.
Tough call, but then you've got to question whether it's worth committing four years to either of these two when you consider the potential free agents after the 2014 season. This class includes Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields, Hisashi Iwakuma, Johnny Cueto (though he has a club option), Justin Masterson and the Jays' own Brandon Morrow (who also has a $10 million club option).
It might be better this year for the Jays to see what they've got from within and then go all-in next year with a potentially deeper pool of free agent pitchers.
It was interesting what skipper John Gibbons said on TSN Drive with Dave Naylor last week; that it was only 50-50 that the Blue Jays would add another veteran arm. Then he added that the Jays weren't certain the pitchers that were still available were really difference makers. That sounds like opening the door for building from within and waiting until next year on the free agents.
In case you were wondering; the highest three paid Blue Jays in 2014 - as of this moment - will be lefty Mark Buehrle at $18 million, Jose Reyes at $16 million and Jose Bautista at $14 million. The only other one to streak $10 million is R.A Dickey at $12 million.
This is a great trivia question. Who was managing David Wells the day he won his 200th career game? Although the former Jays lefty was with the Yankees, it wasn't Joe Torre. Anticipating Roger Clemens was going to retire at the end of that season, Torre handed over the managerial reigns to Clemens for that one day. Wells won his 20Oth and Clemens fooled everyone by continuing to pitch after that season.