5 Under the Radar MLB Free Agent Starters That Will Improve Your Team

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4. Ervin Santana

Signing Ervin Santana next year would be a risk, but it’s also a move with major potential upside. Santana’s season was derailed before it even started last year when a February finger surgery kept him out for a bulk of the season. This was a major blow to Santana, who MLB.com writer Rhett Bolinger reported would be the Twin’s opening day starter.

When Santana finally returned to the rotation in late July his performance was less than impressive, finishing with an 8.03 ERA over 24.2 innings pitched; he only started five times before a return to the DL due to further finger complications.

So, 2018 was bad. Fortunately for Santana his 2017 was likely stellar enough to keep teams interested, and if he is able to rehab properly this offseason and return to near that level he could be the steal of this free agent class.

Santana was an All-Star in 2017 and received a few votes for the AL Cy Young Award. He was the Twins ace, finishing with a 3.28 ERA and 167 strikeouts over 211.1 innings. That 211.1 innings was second among AL starters behind the Chris Sale, which is very impressive for a player in their age 34 season.

Much of Santana’s success in the past has come courtesy of his slider, which is pretty much tied with his four-seam fastball as his most used pitch. In 2017 opposing hitters slugged .260 against Santana’s slider, compared to .480 against his four-seam and changeup and .505 against his sinker.

An injured middle finger isn’t good news for a slider-heavy pitcher like Santana, which is likely to give a lot of front offices pause when considering Santana as an option. One silver lining to all of this is that if Santana is able to fully rehab this winter it’s possible that his fully healed finger will produce a better slider than we saw in 2017, according to reporting by Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.

Basically, the proof will be in the pudding for Sanchez. He’ll likely be signed later in the offseason when the results of his recovery will be more clear and teams will get a chance to look at his medicals. With his recent success and possible upside Sanchez could be an under the radar steal for whatever team is willing to take the risk.