Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Yankees keeping an eye on Johan Santana

The New York Yankees have been reconstructing their roster this season from all angles with the most common theme being youth upside or short-term, no-harm deals to add depth. The Yankees were in attendance for Johan Santana’s two-inning outing Tuesday night in the Venezuelan Winter League and according to the New York Post’s Dan Martin a team source said the club “will keep an eye on him.”

Santana, a 36-year-old southpaw, has not appeared in a Major League game since 2012, when he went an uninspiring 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA (4.09 FIP) for the New York Mets. He missed the entire 2011 season due to shoulder surgery.

Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, had surgery again on his left shoulder in 2013, and suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in June 2014 while pitching an extended spring training game for the Baltimore Orioles.

I’m not certain what the Yankees’ desires here would be other than to take a non-risk flyer on a pitcher who once dominated the sport. Santana has not had a productive season beyond replacement level since he posted a 3.4 fWAR in 2010 so chances of a full comeback especially given his injury history is minimal at best.

But, the Yankees have been filling spots in the minor leagues in order to be ready for when injuries beset a suspect rotation from a health perspective. The club has brought in many relievers, which has allowed them to suggest players like Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers could be worked out as starters when spring training sets in. Signing a veteran like Santana to a minor league deal with a spring training invite could lessen the need for stretching out Warren or Rogers, assuming Santana is completely healthy and performing well.

A tweet from’s Jon Heyman says Santana's fastball reached 90 mph, which is an uptick from what he displayed prior to getting hurt last season.

Of course, tossing two innings of shutout ball in a summer league game is nothing like what Santana would encounter if able to return to a Major League mound. That said if Santana can stay healthy and regain any of the form he possessed as far back as 2010, he could surely be worth the minimal risk he presents from a contract standpoint and where he'd fit in the Yankees' plans.

The Yankees are surely at a point where such a deal does no harm. But it has the potential, albeit slim, to be a welcomed surprise.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.