The Twins traded Ricky Nolasco on Monday, which might earn interim GM Rob Antony the next statue outside Target Field. Seriously, that’s like getting rid of a house guest who said he was coming for a week and instead has been living there for a year.
But if you’re a Twins fan merely giddy with the prospect of ditching the underachieving Nolasco, you’re missing some important information: namely, the details on the main pitcher they’re getting in return from the Angels, 28-year-old lefty Hector Santiago.
You should know this deal is “cash-neutral,” which was explained succinctly here by our guy Phil Miller. Basically, the Twins are kicking in some extra money to make Nolasco go away. You should also know the deal closes the book on Alex Meyer, a prospect who was also included in the package to the Angels. Meyer, you’ll recall, was highly touted after being acquired for Denard Span. He’s never been able to put it together with the Twins. And you should also know the Twins also got minor league pitcher Alan Busenitz in the trade.
Most of all, though, you should know these five things about Santiago:
1) If you just look at raw major league results, he’s pretty good! He’s made 105 career starts and has a career ERA of 3.68. He was even an All-Star with the Angels last season, when he finished the year with a 3.55 ERA and 162 Ks in 180.2 innings. For his career, he’s averaged 8.2 strikeouts per 9 innings and has never had a season in which he allowed more hits than innings.
2) Lurking within those good numbers are some bad ones! Santiago struggles with the long ball. He gave up a league-high 29 homers last year, in spite of his success. He’s walked a league-high 57 batters this season and has a career average of 4.1 walks per 9 innings. As a guy who gives up a lot of walks and homers, his career FIP (fielding independent pitching) is almost a run higher (4.63) than his career ERA.
3) Santiago has been particularly good lately. In the month of July, pitching for the woeful Angels (who are tied for last in the AL West), Santiago was a perfect 6-0 with a 1.78 ERA — earning a victory in all six games in which he pitched. Of those six starts, he pitched only the minimum (for a victory) five innings in half of them. He will labor and rack up a pitch count, but he can also give a team a chance to win.
4) He was originally a 30th-round pick of the White Sox in 2006. Making it this deep into a major league career from that draft slot is impressive. Santiago made his debut for Chicago in 2011 and was dealt to the Angels after the 2013 season as part of a three-team swap that included Mark Trumbo.
5) Here is his contract status: Santiago is arbitration-eligible in 2017 and a free agent the year after that. He was making $5 million this year, and that figures to jump next year. Again, with the Twins sending $4 million to the Angels in 2017, that means the two pitchers will cost about the same. It comes down to, who would you rather have on your roster this year and next — Santiago or Nolasco. I think you know the answer.