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Could Ervin Santana Return to Kansas City on a Short-Term Deal?

If the market is drying up for the right-hander, might he consider coming back for one more rodeo?

Ed Zurga

With Matt Garza signing a 4 year $50 million deal with Milwaukee, its looking less and less like Ervin Santana will get the $100 million deal he sought earlier this winter. As we inch towards spring training, Santana is still unemployed. Could a return to Kansas City be a possibility?

Chris Cotillo reports on the interest Santana is receiving from clubs and writes that:

With Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza recently off the board, Santana's market is expected to heat up in the near future, with league sources speculating that teams like the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Royals and Tigers could become involved.

Bob Dutton (remember him?) tweeted earlier this week that:

Decent fit. M's want veteran starter. Could return to #Royals on 1-or 2-year deal. @kansasxccup4k5k Santana coming your way? If not, where?

But what does the boss man say? Does Dayton have Erv's phone number on standby? Blair Kerkoff at the Star asked Dayton where he stood on the free agent pitcher.

"We’re continuing the monitor his situation, and the level of our involvement has yet to be determined," Moore said on Tuesday. "He was a terrific pitcher for us last year. I’m confident Erv will get a very good deal."

Moore said the Royals could be interested in retaining Santana, who delivered one of his best major-league seasons in 2013, but didn’t specify terms.

Read more here:

Sam Mellinger gave his take this week, writing:

Three years and $40 million seems like a reasonable expectation for him, and the right teams seem to be interested for Santana to be well paid, even as the market for him hasn’t been what he hoped when his agents initially threw out the ludicrous notion of him signing a $100 million contract.

I understand why this question is still hanging around Kansas City, and like I said in that blog post, the chances are higher today than a month ago simply because he still hasn’t signed.

But this is a fairly significant longshot. The way I see it, it would basically require Santana turning down longer contracts and more stability to take a one-year gamble that he’ll have another great season and (when he’s a year older with more innings on that elbow) be in line for a bigger contract.

It would also almost certainly require some sort of wink-wink agreement that the Royals would not give Santana another qualifying offer.

Either that or it would require David Glass, after extending the payroll to another franchise record, doubling down and giving a risky, long-term deal to an aging starting pitcher whose elbow may or may not blow up.

Read more here:

The Royals rotation currently stands at James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy, and then a competition between Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, and Yordano Ventura (with Brad Penny ready to go if all three of them, and maybe a few other pitchers are lost to a freak golf-cart accident in Arizona). That is most likely a drop-off from last year's rotation, but bringing back Santana would give the Royals a solid five-man staff.

Santana certainly seemed to like playing baseball here, embracing the city as he enjoyed one of the better seasons in his career. He might be amenable to a 1-2 year deal to try again with free agency in a better market (especially if he can get the Royals to not make a Qualifying Offer). His numbers could certainly benefit from playing in front of this defense again.

However, Ervin has had an inconsistent and injury-prone career. Putting off free agency might risk millions of dollars if he gets hurt. And the Royals are already at around $94 million in estimated payroll this year. It seems unlikely they would cross the $100 million threshold unless David Glass is visited by three ghosts of baseball past, present, and future. That, coupled with giving up their expected compensatory draft pick for Santana, seems to make a reunion unlikely.

Still, Dayton hasn't closed that door. Should he keep it open?