MLB rumors: Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and the danger of the Sensible Guy

USA TODAY Sports

It's time to be unnerved about contract length again.

I'd like to add a new holy day to the baseball's offseason calendar: The day you open the trade rumor site of your choice and some seemingly average free agent is asking for a seemingly ridiculous amount of money, and everyone else is seemingly unperturbed. It's not pitchers and catchers reporting, or Opening Day, or even the Rule 5 draft, but it's what we've got, and today I opened Baseball Think Factory and saw Ervin Santana seeking $100 million in free agency.

It's been an entire year since he led baseball in home runs allowed, so sure. Meanwhile—a little closer to your heart—Stephen Drew, the Ervin Santana of shortstops, is officially getting the Full Boras from his agent:

While Boras wouldn't even address the qualifying offer issue, he scoffed at the speculation (mine included here in my free-agent roundup) that Drew could wind up with a three-year contract, saying, "A three-year deal, for a 30-year-old free agent, really?"

Boras also said, "Are these writers aware of what Elvins Andrus signed for?" The younger Andrus received $120 million over eight years, though he was not yet a free agent.

If Heyman had cut him off at "A three-year deal for a 30-year-old free agent [shortstop]? Really?" we might have had an understanding. Alas.

Contract demands in November—especially among those who've contracted Qualifying Offer Syndrome—will always be a little inflated, but that's not the point of Ervin Santana. The point of Ervin Santana is that our contract expectations for good-but-not-great players will never quite keep up with reality.

The thing I remember most about Matt Holliday free agent season is that every couple of weeks I was struck with the paranoid conviction that settling on Jason Bay instead was the right move. It was The Thinking Man's decision, the moderate, sensible one. Jason Bay signed for $66 million; Matt Holliday signed for $120 million.

Jason Bay has been worth 1.9 rWAR since then. Matt Holliday has been worth 16.6.

If there's one thing I like about the Cardinals' hypothetical, ridiculous pursuit of Jacoby Ellsbury, it's that Jacoby Ellsbury is a top free agent, and not a Sensible Guy. Stars can get hurt—especially Ellsbury—and stars can disappoint, but it's the sensible guys whose contracts constantly surprise you, who can have the season David Freese just finished up at any moment.

The Cardinals are in Sensible Guy territory—they've got nothing above replacement level at shortstop, and there aren't any big stars to chase down. They've got enough flexibility that a big contract for Drew or Jhonny Peralta really can't be a disaster. But I hope they're wary anyway.

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