Why Santana would help new-look Mariners

Ervin Santana signed a one-year deal with the Braves Wednesday morning. (Mark Duncan/AP)
March 4, 2014, 7:47 AM

It wasn’t long ago that the Toronto Blue Jays seemed like the most logical landing spot for Ervin Santana. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos has since downplayed the chances of a deal, but a new team has emerged as the most obvious fit for the free agent right-hander: the Seattle Mariners.

Robinson Cano certainly thinks Santana make sense for the Mariners. The $240-million second baseman recently told CBS Sports that he’d like to see his new club add Santana before opening day.

“He’s great,” Cano said. “The guy’s always pitching; he never gets hurt.”

Cano’s thinking makes sense, especially after some recent injuries to two of the Mariners’ top pitchers. Hisashi Iwakuma, who finished third in last year’s American League Cy Young balloting after posting a 2.66 ERA in 219.2 innings, is sidelined with a strained tendon on his middle finger. Taijuan Walker, a top pitching prospect who had been slated for a rotation spot, has been shut down with shoulder inflammation.

Neither Iwakuma nor Walker can be viewed as a sure thing at this stage, which leaves Seattle with a projected rotation of Felix Hernandez, Scott Baker, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton and Blake Beavan. Aside from Hernandez, there’s not a ton of certainty here, so it’s easy to see why Cano would like to see GM Jack Zduriencik add some reinforcements.

Fortunately for Seattle, there are now fewer potential bidders for Santana than there were four months ago. That gives the Mariners some leverage.

Even better, Seattle wouldn’t have to part with a top pick to sign Santana, who’s linked to draft pick compensation. Their first-round pick is protected, and they already surrendered their second-rounder to sign Cano. To sign Santana they’d have to give up their-third round selection, 53rd overall. Relatively speaking, that’s affordable. The New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles are the only two MLB teams who’d have to surrender lower picks to sign a premium free agent.

Santana would even be a fit for Seattle’s home park. The right-hander has given up an average of 25 home runs per season since debuting in 2005, so the long ball is a concern. That said, Safeco Field suppresses home runs, much like Kauffman Stadium, where Santana pitched in 2013 on his way to posting a career-best 3.24 ERA.

Cano has a point. Santana would help the Mariners and, relatively speaking, the cost is reasonable. If Zduriencik can convince ownership to make one more free agent addition, there are plenty of reasons to follow the advice of his newly-signed superstar and pursue Santana.

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