Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The good news for the Atlanta Braves was that a starting pitcher the caliber of Ervin Santana was still on the market this late into spring training.
The bad news, though, was that the Braves were actually forced to scout the market for a pitcher like Santana.
Atlanta's need for another starter popped up in recent days, as righties Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both left starts with injuries. Medlen is likely headed for a second Tommy John surgery, while the prognosis for Beachy is still unknown.
"In light of what has happened over the past few days with our pitching staff, we felt it was incumbent on us to do everything we could to strengthen our starting pitching," Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. "Throughout the winter, we didn't feel like we were going to be in this market. But we felt Ervin was the No. 1 guy in the market. We've always felt if we were going to go out there, we would love to have him."
You can thank baseball's new collective bargaining rules as to why Santana was still available. Sure there were plenty of teams interested in him, but none was willing to pay him and part with a first-round pick.
But, when you are a team picked by many to win the National League East, desperate times, call for desperate measures. The Braves knew Medlen was hurt bad the moment he walked off the mound Sunday clutching his right elbow. They were already deep into discussions with Santana even before Beachy left Monday's start against the Philadelphia Phillies.
So late Tuesday, the Braves and Santana agreed to a 1-year, $14.1 million deal. Atlanta will lose its first-round pick in this June's draft.
After pitching the first seven years of his career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Santana joined the Kansas City Royals last season and went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 32 starts.
The 31-year-old has reportedly been working out on his own. However, as dire a situation the Braves are in at the moment, they are not going to rush him and hope to add him to the rotation midway through the first month of the season.
So, if Beachy misses some significant time, the Braves are likely to open the season with a rotation that consists of Julio Teheran, Freddy Garcia, Alex Wood and David Hale.
And, yes, this is a team that is favored to win a division title.
You can't help but feel for Medlen, who was emerging as one of the best pitchers in baseball after coming all the way back from his first Tommy John surgery back in 2010.
Since joining the Braves' starting rotation at the end of July 2012, Medlen was 24-12 with a 2.47 ERA in 44 games (43 starts). His 2.40 ERA in that span was also the second-best among major league pitchers with at least 250 innings, behind only Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
Medlen, who has won three of the past eight NL pitcher of the month awards, nearly broke down on Wednesday when discussing his injury.
"From his perspective, he probably knew when he walked off the mound, based on how he felt," Wren said. "And over the last couple of days, he's had additional tests. Yesterday, he had a stress X-ray, and that stress X-ray, it's not definitive, but it did probably confirm what he was fearing. That there's a high likelihood that he's going to have to have a second Tommy John.
"And so that put him in a position where he wanted to come to you guys and be open and honest with where we are. It's nothing official. It's not definite yet. But I think over the next few days when he sees the doctor, that's what we're anticipating."
While it's rough to lose perhaps the most popular player in the Braves' locker room in Medlen, Santana could be one of the better pickups in the league this offseason.
Perhaps getting out of the American League is just the thing to get Santana going. It worked wonders for Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano last season.
Now the Braves just keep their fingers crossed on Beachy.