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Royals potential trade target: Ervin Santana

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Smell the baseball.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have already reunited with Joakim Soria and reportedly looked into a reunion with Carlos Beltran. With starting pitching in dire need of an upgrade, could the Royals also look into bringing back old friend Ervin Santana?

Ervin Santana pitched for the Royals in 2013, after they acquired him from the Angels in a salary dump for minor league pitcher Brandon Sisk. There were reasons to be skeptical about Santana with his injury background and the fact he led the league in home runs allowed the previous season. But Erv was very effective pitching in Kauffman Stadium, posting a 3.24 ERA and 2.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to Baseball Reference, and allowing just 26 home runs.

Santana was seeking a $100 million contract upon leaving the Royals, but had to settle for a one-year deal with the Braves after the market dried up. After that, he signed a four-year, $54 million deal with the Twins before the 2015 season, but was immediately hit with an 80-game suspension for using stanozolol, a banned substance.

Since the suspension, Santana has made 34 starts over the last two seasons and has been about the definition of "league-average." He has a 4.06 ERA over that time for a 103 ERA+. He has struck out 6.8 per-nine-innings, and walked 2.8 per-nine-innings over those seasons, right in line with his career numbers. He is a bit of a flyball pitcher, although his rate of 37% is not among the league leaders. He has allowed just 11 home runs, and his home run-to-flyball rate is among the lowest in baseball.

Santana missed some time in late April with a back injury after shagging balls in the outfield, but he has been free of any arm injuries since 2009. Santana had a rough June, but has been effective lately, tossing a two-hit shutout against Oakland a few weeks ago.

The Minnesota Twins have been a disaster this year, and with a new interim General Manager in charge, they could look to sell off all assets and rebuild again. The big sticking point with Santana would be the money. Santana is owed about $7 million the remainder of this season, then has two years left on his deal where he is owed $13.5 million each season, plus a $1 million buyout on his option year. The Twins would certainly have to eat some of that money to move him, but the question is how much? The Royals do not appear to be in a position to take on much money, and the more they ask the Twins to cover, the greater a prospect the Royals will have to fork over.

The Red Sox are reportedly interested in the 33-year old right-hander. Boston Globe reporter Nick Cafardo writes that the asking price for Santana is high, although the team will take less if another team will take on the remainder of his salary. He suggests that Santana could be "a more realistic option" for a team like the Royals. Santana may not present a huge upgrade, but could provide stability to a rotation that is shuttling fifth starters in and out, and provide a long-term option for the rotation.