Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com writes that the Nationals “are a potential sleeper team in the competition to land” Cliff Lee, quoting “one baseball insider” as saying: “They’re going to step up and try to get a top free agent. They’d like to make a splash.”
Perhaps, but the odds of the top free agent on the market choosing a team that has lost 298 games in the past three seasons seems pretty slim unless the Nationals offer significantly more years and/or money than everyone else. And what are the chances of the Nationals out-bidding the Yankees for Lee?
Crasnick notes that “if the Nationals fail to land Lee”–and I’d change the wording from “if” to “when”–they’ll likely turn their attention the trade market, perhaps going after one of the Rays’ starters like Matt Garza or James Shields. That’s a whole lot more plausible, and Shields in particular has already been linked to a few teams as a possible trade target.
Free agent right-hander Ervin Santana picked up a minor league deal with the White Sox, according to various reports Friday. Per Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com, Santana will make $4.33 million if he manages to crack the major-league roster this spring. Any official confirmation from the team is still dependent on the results of a physical.
The veteran righty hasn’t seen any action in MLB for some time. He was laid low by prolonged discomfort in his right middle finger last spring, and underwent a capsular release/debridement procedure that kept him off the mound for all but 24 2/3 innings of his 2018 campaign with the Twins. When healthy, however, he’s been as durable and productive as they come. Santana earned his second career All-Star distinction in 2017 and pitched to a 16-8 record in 33 starts with three shutouts, a 3.28 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 7.1 SO/9, and 2.9 fWAR through 211 1/3 innings.
Barring further complications with his pitching hand, the 36-year-old should be a stabilizing force for the White Sox’ rotation in 2019 — assuming he can beat out southpaw Manny Bañuelos and right-handers Jordan Stephens and Dylan Covey for a back-end role, that is. According to FanGraphs, the club’s starters ranked worst in the league in 2018 with a collective 5.07 ERA, 5.18 FIP, and 3.1 fWAR.