Chalk it up as the strange January rumor of the day. MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports that a number of teams are interested in free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana, and that list includes the Miami Marlins.
Free agent right-hander Ervin Santana is drawing interest from eight teams including the Rockies, Orioles, Mariners, Yankees and Dodgers, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. The Marlins and Cubs also recently inquired about him, but their interest does not appear to be too serious at this time.
Both the Marlins and Cubs appear to be less serious candidates for good reason. The other teams listed are either contending for a playoff spot next year or are trying to make a splash following signing a certain massive contract to a 31-year-old second baseman. The Marlins and Cubs, on the other hand, are down squads who combined for 196 losses last year.
For Miami, the move towards a starting pitcher is especially puzzling given the team's significant depth at the position. Heading into Spring Training starting next month, Miami officially has two spots in the rotation up for grabs. However, one is almost certainly Jacob Turner's to lose, while the Fish have an intriguing lead option for the next slot in prospect Brian Flynn. Lurking in the minors are Adam Conley, Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, and Jose Urena all likely to be at the Double-A level or higher. A number of these players may fail to make an impact, but the key is that Miami has a ton of them at their disposal.
Then again, a losing team from last season is the sort of club ideally placed to sign Santana given his draft pick compensation. The Kansas City Royals extended Santana a qualifying offer and he turned it down, thus entitling the Royals a pick. Miami and Chicago are both picking in the top 10 selections of the 2014 draft, meaning their picks are protected and would not be handed over as part of the compensation for signing Santana. A signing by Miami would force the Fish to give up their first competitive balance pick, the one they received for not signing Matt Krook last season; that pick is the 36th selection in next year's draft.
Of the teams listed, however, the Yankees and Mariners also have similar situations. The Yankees have signed approximately a million free agents, leaving their next highest pick at 56th in the draft. The Mariners also have a protected first-round selection, and their Cano signing leaves them giving up the 46th pick in the draft at the moment if they sign Santana. The Fish and Cubs are not the only competitors in the "favorable draft pick" game.
Ultimately, Cotillo says the Marlins' interest is minor, as well it should be. Even at just $12.5 million per season for four years (the same cost Matt Garza got), the Marlins would be going well over budget to accommodate signing the 31-year-old starter. Santana is coming off of his best season (211 innings, 3.24 ERA, 3.93 FIP), but that alone should not entice Miami to make a move.