The Angels had no intentions of keeping Santana on the roster in 2013. Not after a season in which he went 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA and a Major League-leading 39 homers, and not when you consider their desire to clear payroll in hopes of resigning Zack Greinke.
By picking up his option, covering what it would've cost to buy him out and sending him to the Royals -- who benefit by not having to compete for his services in the open market -- the Angels at least get some pitching depth in return.
"In all likelihood, we were not going to exercise the option on Ervin Santana," said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who was up against a 9 p.m. PT deadline. "Today was decision day, and we came down to it, and we were able to bring back a piece in Brandon Sisk to add to our stable of pitching arms and create depth that before today we didn't have. This is an opportunity for both teams to cash in on something that they didn't have."
Dipoto's next deadline comes Friday at 9 p.m. PT, when he must decide on the $15.5 million club option -- and $3.5 million buyout -- on Dan Haren's contract. Industry sources have said the Angels will also look to trade Haren, but the possibility that they exercise his option, to deal him later in the offseason or perhaps even hold onto him, remains very much in play.
Dipoto won't comment on specifics, but said dealing Santana has no effect on Haren, adding: "They're two separate people, separate players, separate entities, and we'll make the appropriate decision on Dan at a later time."
Santana was signed by the Angels out of the Dominican Republic in 2000 and was, to be frank, inconsistent. From 2005-07, he compiled a 4.84 ERA. In '08, he finished 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA and was sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting. In an '09 season hindered by elbow and triceps ailments, his ERA ballooned to 5.03. From 2010-11, he compiled 28 wins, posted a 3.65 ERA and threw a no-hitter.
Then came the 2012 season, when command issues weakened his slider, ultimately led to a loss of velocity in his fastball and put his ERA at 6.00 by late July.
Santana briefly turned it around, going 5-2 with a 3.08 ERA from July 30 to Sept. 21, but gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings at Rangers Ballpark on Sept. 30 -- a back-breaking defeat that wound up being his final start in an Angels uniform.
"To say that Ervin's season was a failure, I think, would be unfair," Dipoto said. "Ervin's season was very uneven."
Santana doesn't return to the Angels and doesn't get to pick his team for 2013, but he'll still make $13 million in 2013 -- more than he would've ever made as a free agent on a one-year deal -- and gets a chance to redeem himself before hitting the open market for the first time.
"The day he signed his contract, he knew that it had an option attached to it," Santana's agent, Bean Stringfellow, said. "His salary now goes to $13 million. If that's the worst-case scenario, then that's not too bad."
Stringfellow said Santana is "genuinely excited" to be going to Kansas City, and Santana himself echoed those sentiments in a conference call with Royals reporters.
"It's going to be hard," Santana said, "because I've known these teammates for a long time. But now I'm going to have new teammates, and I can't wait to meet them and hang out with them.
"It's not [disappointing] because the Royals have a very good team. They've got very good young talent and they've got a good defense, and it's very exciting."
Sisk, 27, has spent his five-year pro career entirely in the Minors, has three option years left and will compete for a bullpen spot this spring. Dipoto believes he can be more than just a situational left-hander.
With a three-quarters delivery, a fastball that ranges from 88 to 92 mph and a slider that's effective against lefty hitters, Sisk posted a 2.54 ERA in 67 1/3 innings for Triple-A Omaha, adding a 1.35 WHIP and a 2.28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
He'll be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December, so the Angels will have to protect him on the 40-man roster.
"He's a three-pitch guy, he's always had the deceptive ability to miss bats -- he's done it at every Minor League level -- and really hasn't had the opportunity to showcase it in the big leagues," Dipoto said. "I don't know that that's going to happen right out of the chute for him, but he'll certainly be given the opportunity to compete for a position, and worst-case scenario, we're building much-needed depth that eluded us in 2012."
The Royals, who ranked 26th in the Majors with a 5.01 ERA among their starters in 2012, are looking for more than just depth out of Santana.
Depending on what else shakes out for them this winter -- and general manager Dayton Moore will no doubt look for more starting pitching -- Santana could end up being Kansas City's ace in 2013.
"Our goal is pretty simple -- we wanted to upgrade our rotation as much as we can," said Moore, who ends up paying Santana $12 million next season. "We wanted to get guys that have the mindset of a No. 1 starter and the ability to pitch innings. We think Ervin certainly has that type of mindset and the ability to pitch innings."