The last week has seen two of the top arms on the market find homes. While Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t technically a free agent, he had plenty of teams vying for his services. When he signed with the New York Yankees at the beginning of last week, Matt Garza immediately became the best pitcher remaining on the market, albeit with some health concerns.
Garza was scooped up by the Milwaukee Brewers, with that deal becoming official by the end of the weekend. That leaves the free agent pitching market even more barren than it already was, with the top two arms available becoming Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana. Between the two, which is the better option?
It should be noted that signing one of Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana would force a team to surrender a draft pick, as each were handed qualifying offers before they hit the market. This was not the case with Garza, which is why it always seemed like itw as going to be the case that he’d be the first pitcher of the trio that found a new home.
Signing either pitcher would represent a wild card in one way or another. In Jimenez, you have a guy who struggled mightily upon his transition to the American League, but was able to get it together in a big way in 2013. He recovered from posting a career high 5.40 ERA in 2012 to pitch to a 3.30 figure in 2013, along with a career mark for strikeouts per nine, at 9.56. His peripherals looked good, so his success was very real in 2013. It’s a matter of that carrying over to his new team, wherever that may be.
Ervin Santana dazzled in 2013, his first and probably only with the Kansas City Royals. The durable starter tossed over 200 innings for the third time in the last four seasons, going for a 3.24 ERA and a 3.93 FIP. His strikeout numbers are not particularly impressive, but he doesn’t walk a lot of batters and that durability is certainly a factor for teams looking to pick up another starter at this point in the winter.
To that effect, each of these pitchers are similar. While Jimenez hasn’t had any significant injury problems in the last few years, he’s not the lock for 200 innings that Santana typically is. Nonetheless, the difference between the two there is not significant. They’re similar in their methods, as each has posted a similar ground ball rate, with the biggest difference between the two being the higher strikeout figures from Jimenez. Of course, that’s offset by the fact that his walk numbers are much higher than Santana’s.
There isn’t a whole lot separating the two at this point. Jimenez is 30, Santana is 31. Both have similar inning totals and ground ball rates. When it comes down to it, though, Jimenez strikes out more batters and walks plenty. Santana doesn’t strike out as many, but doesn’t walk many either. Santana’s more recent track record, and his durability, could give him the slight edge at this point over Jimenez.