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Contract Forecast: Ervin Santana

Contract Forecast: Ervin Santana
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Contract Forecast: Ervin Santana

His 4 year $30 million contract expired in 2013, and the list of starting pitchers joining him in free agency aren't anything to write home about. In fact, as the 2014 MLB free agency season kicks off, many are referring to Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ervin Santana as the best available pitching option. In many cases, this plays favorable for the 30 year old, set to enter his 10th season in the big leagues. But being the lone wolf in the forest also has its setbacks - notably that there won't be any comparable major, recent contracts to compare or contrast Santana to at the negotiating table.

Just one year prior, pitchers were signing new contracts and extensions nearly once a week, with the bar being raised a little more each time (Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and Cole Hamels. In short, Santana's statistical numbers will need to speak for themself.

As per usual with our contract forecasts, our goal here is to combine both the finances & the statistical production of Ervin Santana, and compare it step for step with relevant and comparable variable starting pitchers, who signed contracts within a recent time frame, at an age close to 30 years old.

Quick Points
  • Santana hasn't been Top 50 in any of the major pitching statistical categories in the past two seasons (2012-2013), with the exception of Innings Pitched (211 in 2013, 17th).
  • He's earned an estimated $45.2 million through 10 major league seasons.
  • His $13 million salary in 2013 ranked 20th among MLB starting pitchers; he was the top-paid Royal.
Comparable Starting Pitchers
Santana will turn 31 just prior to MLB Winter meetings (12/12), so for now we'll assume him as a 30 year old. We've located four pitchers who signed deals around this age, all with top contracts and statistical value in recent seasons. To determine a more likely starting point for our Kershaw numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract breakdown listed below.
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
John Lackey 5 $ 82,500,000 $ 16,500,000 31
Zack Grienke 6 $ 147,000,000 $ 24,500,000 30
C.J. Wilson 5 $ 77,500,000 $ 15,500,000 31
Jered Weaver 5 $ 85,000,000 $ 17,000,000 30
Averages, 5.25 $ 98,000,000 $ 18,375,000 30.5

Note: A linear regression is a formula that plots the provided points of data for Length and Value of the contracts, and then generates the best-fit line for those points, resulting in a "slope" value that translates to an average annual salary.

View the list of Top Average Paid Starting Pitchers in MLB

Because some of these variable pitchers were older than Santana at the time of their signings, we'll bring the above contracts down to his age by subtracting from the overall years to make each variable player 30 years old. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:

Length Value Avg. Salary (slope)
5 $ 97,795,699 $ 19,559,140
Statistical Analyzations, Prime Percentage
Now let's analyze these players statistically in the two years prior to signing their second contract by showing Starts, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning), and Wins. While wins is a bit of an arbitrary stat (as it relies on a team performance), it's important to note the pitcher's value in this manner.
Player Starts Innings Strikeouts ERA WHIP Wins
John Lackey (2008-09, LAA) 25.5 169.6 134.5 3.79 1.2505 11.5
Zack Grienke (2011-12, MIL) 31 191.65 200.5 3.655 1.198 15.5
C.J. Wilson (2010-11, LAA) 33.5 213.55 188 3.145 1.216 15.5
Jered Weaver (2010-11, LAA) 33.5 229.65 215.5 2.71 1.04 15.5
Averages 30.875 201.1125 184.625 3.325 1.176125 14.5
Ervin Santana (2012-13, KC) 31 194.5 147 4.20 1.206 11.5
% Difference 0.40% -3.29% -20.38% -26.32% -2.54% -20.69%
Overall Prime % -12.134%
Our results show unfavorable numbers for Santana in terms of adjusting this forecast. He's above the fold only in the case of Games Started - meaning he actually had a better chance to produce bigger numbers, and still didn't. HIs strikeouts and earned run average is well below our variables. And while wins could be considered a jaded stat as it applies to the entire team, the Royals were 10 games over .500 in 2013.

We'll factor his Prime Percentage of -12.134%, into our previously determined base value.

Length of the Contract
At 30 it appears the going length for a new starting pitcher contract is 5 years. It should be noted that an additional year (or a few club option years) could easily be used to negotiate a deal that includes a lower overall average salary.

Value of the Contract
Our initial age-adjusted regression provided an average annual salary close to $19.6M, a figure that would place him 7th highest among active starting pitchers. By factoring in the -12.134% Prime Percentage figure to our original base value, our overall value decreases into the following forecast:

Spotrac's Prediction: 5 years, $85,929,169

  •  Average annual salary: $17,185,834