Time will tell which White Sox problem Ervin Santana most embodied

The White Sox are no stranger to swinging and missing when it comes to reclamation projects in the rotation, but that can be said for most teams. It just might feel like an acute White Sox issue since they had more success with it in the past, and Fernando Tatis Jr. is somewhere else because the Sox missed on their first two attempts to shore up their rotation in 2016.

At any rate, Ervin Santana joined the pile of previously loved starters to fall out of the rotation in short order, even if they were owed a significant amount of money.

PitcherYearSalaryIPLast start
Ervin Santana2019$4.3M13.1April 24
Miguel Gonzalez2018$4.75M12.1April 17
John Danks2016$15.75M22.1April 28
Mat Latos2016$3M60.1June 7
Felipe Paulino2014$1.75M18.1April 18

While Santana has plenty of company, he does stand out in terms of being healthy. Gonzalez and Paulino’s White Sox (and MLB) careers ended on the disabled list, although Paulino’s ERA might’ve been more inflamed than his shoulder. Santana is closer to Danks and Latos in that the Sox didn’t see any chance of a stuff resurgence, but the Tatis reference above shows how desperately the White Sox sought improvement.

With Santana, there was no specific pressure to cut him loose. With Manny Bañuelos occupying a fixed rotation spot, the White Sox no longer have an obvious sixth starter. The White Sox said they sent Dylan Covey down to Charlotte to stretch him out, but I sensed it was a euphemism…

… and sure enough, he made a random two-inning relief appearance for Charlotte on Saturday.

That said, Covey is pitching better than anybody not named Dylan Cease, and even Cease has gotten touched up his last two starts as Triple-A’s adoption of the streamlined major-league baseball has messed with pitching lines all across the International League.

If the Sox wanted to run Santana out there one more time just as fodder, I wouldn’t have wanted to watch it, but I would’ve understood the point, at least until Lucas Giolito shows he’s past his hamstring injury.

Instead, the White Sox showed a surprising unwillingness to humor Santana, and even while he was on the roster. Rick Renteria pulled Santana from his last start one out shy of five innings, even though Santana had thrown just 71 pitches and retired 10 of his last 12. After the start, Rick Hahn cut Santana loose.

Maybe they could’ve crafted Santana into an underpowered but usable righty in a couple more weeks, but they’ve seen what kind of interest that generates on the market. Gonzalez yielded Ti’Quan Forbes in 2017, and Shields spent all of 2018 in Chicago. Scott Feldman is a fun case to point to, but he gave the Astros a couple average seasons after the Jake Arrieta trade, so he didn’t have that end-of-career scent on him. Also, the need for any starter isn’t as crucial at a time where bullpens get mixed into earlier innings on purpose.

The Sox acquired Santana hoping he’d throwing 93 mph once fully recovered from his finger injury. When Santana barely cracked 90 and needed to survive on sliders, the Sox already knew they didn’t get the guy they wanted.

If Giolito is fully functional, then hell yeah, Bañuelos is a way better use of the lone remaining rotation spot. He’s the primary purpose for turning the page, with the hopes that the Sox can close the door on their random veteran fifth starter phase for a while. If Giolito or anybody else has to go on the DL, the Sox will really have to scramble for innings, but they’d be doing the same thing if they had Santana. The only difference is that they wouldn’t care about Santana’s feelings during repeated shellings. Going from veterans to rookies requires a little more sensitivity.

Assuming the White Sox rotation isn’t found wanting for replacement-level innings from a veteran who can take a beating, then there isn’t much of an issue with the failed Santana experiment in isolation. I just wouldn’t put it entirely out of mind, because other pillars of Hahn’s offseason haven’t yet established themselves as good ideas, either. Santana isn’t a one-off as long as Yonder Alonso bats under .200 and Jon Jay remains a White Sox only in theory. Under these conditions, Santana is more rule than exception, and his $4.3 million salary is part of a $16 million that could’ve been better spent during an offseason where every dollar counted.

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Patrick Nolan

As soon as I care to the conclusion that Dylan Covey would be a better choice to start games than Ervin Santana, I became convinced there was no point in keeping him for even one more outing. In any event, this seemed to be an indication that Giolito can get back out there soon.

Another name relevant here is Jordan Stephens. He’s 26 and just turned in a good start at Charlotte, even though in aggregate things aren’t all that rosy.  If he was asked to start games instead of Santana, how would that be worse? It’s hard to cause more harm than a guy who was taxing the bullpen and giving up a ton of runs, and if the argument is “he’s not ready”, well, he’s 26. Plus, if things go according to plan, he probably won’t be in position to get future opportunities. 


I need to make you a “trigger warning” graphic to use on posts that contain a Tatis Jr. reference


or maybe an outright ban?


My theory on the Sox blowing $20mil on questionable acquisitions was partially to get the payroll over $75mil to keep the MLBPA off their backs.
The alternative is that their pro scouting is even worse than we thought.

As Cirensica

It is the latter because 20M to get past the 75M threshold could have yielded much more than what Alonso/Jay/Santana has brought (and will bring). Using larry’s phrase (or someone’s), our pro-scouting should be selling insurance rather than working for a baseball org.

lil jimmy

one good thing about all these bad choices. They are one year bad choices. They all go away, they get to make all new bad choices.

As Cirensica

Except this is on a yearly basis, so the one year bad choices appear to be on retainer. Never go away.

karkovice squad

Por que no los dos?


Porque no quiero creer son desesperada.


We don’t need time to discern which problem Santana most embodied, because that is clear: The front office’s perpetual inability to evaluate talent and compensate it accordingly.


16 million would have gone a long way to signing Dallas Keuchel…


Isn’t it ironic that the market finally turned toward the Kenny Williams model of year to year trying to compete? If any team was going year to year trying to field the best team by signing free agents, the market has now come to them. But it seems all teams are in lock-step on “smart spending” and rebuilding soooo …

I think I just opened like 10 cans of worms.

karkovice squad

They decided to rebuild just as the market was coming around to favor that go-for-it model. And now, having missed on Machado and the rest of the last premier free agent class for the immediate future right as another wave of extensions gets signed, the market’s passed them by again.


Clearly, Kenny Williams was 20 years ahead of his time.

karkovice squad

They are staggeringly, mindbogglingly inefficient in their quest to avoid paying market rates for talent. They’re just not good enough at anything they do to win by outsmarting the market.

Feldman’s a case in point: the Cubs got him coming off a season with good peripherals and bad results. That’s what makes a bounceback candidate not the Sox picking up players whose talent has degraded, then trying to execute a high-degree-of-difficulty fix.

Also, somewhere in there is guaranteeing money to Jacob Turner. And for a while their, what seemed like an annual occurence, their less costly though equally low-upside Rangers outcasts, Noesi and Ranaudo.

As Cirensica

Also, somewhere in there is guaranteeing money to Jacob Turner.

1.5 million to pitch 26 terrible innings


While we’re ragging on the White Sox scouting and off-season moves, it’s at least worth pointing out that the Herrera, Colome, McCann acquisitions seem to be working out pretty well so far.

I’m not saying I agree with all the choices, I’m just saying we bought several lottery tickets. Some are winners; some aren’t.