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Yankees Potential 2015 Free Agent Target: Ervin Santana

Solid but unspectacular, is Ervin Santana worth a first-round pick?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Statistics: 196 IP, 31 GS, 3.95 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.8 fWAR

2015 Age: 32

Position: Right-handed starting pitcher

During an injury-cursed 2014, it was the starting rotation that suffered the hardest hit; losing four of its five Opening Day members. Even so, the pitching staff performed admirably. Heading into 2015, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda represent an imposing 1-2 punch if neither miss significant time - admittedly, a big if - but there is little certainty beyond those two. Shane Greene might offer some hope, a healthy Ivan Nova would be something to wish for, and there is always a prayer for a resurgence from CC Sabathia. Start with just these five though and almost certainty the Yankees will have to try to work through a patchwork rotation next summer, leaving the ugly specter of negative regression from the improbable 2014 pitching performance hanging over the season.

If the Yankees are to contend for a postseason spot in 2015, they will need to improve the offense, but they will also need to pitch as effectively as they did last year. Any of the top-of-the-market options, including Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields would immediately improve the 2015 rotation outlook, though at a steep price. Brandon McCarthy's excellent second half has made him very desirable, but there will be much competition for him, especially since he comes without draft-pick restrictions. If the Yankees cannot, or choose not to, pay one of these four, quality rotation depth becomes scarce.

Ervin Santana might well be the best option after them. The younger Santana saw his performance fluctuate year-on-year, but he has become more consistent with age. He is arguably coming off his best year since his 2008 season (a strong outlier in his peripherals), though this is likely related to his move to the National League with the Braves, after a career spent pitching in the more dangerous American League. Still, Santana's 2014 numbers are not far outside his career norms. He has a track record for staying healthy, starting at least 30 games in seven of his nine non-rookie seasons, having spent time in the minors in both 2007 and 2009. Still only 32, his streak of durability might not be at its end just yet, though with pitchers there can be no certainty.

Santana would come at the cost of a first-round pick, as would Scherzer or Shields, though he doesn't carry quite as much luster as either. His market is expected to be significantly more reasonable though, as FanGraphs crowdsourcing has estimated his price tag to be in the range of three years and $39 million, which certainly seems reasonable. He has turned down a qualifying offer for a second-straight offseason and his experience last winter, culminating with him having to settle for a late one-year deal, might make him more inclined to accept a lesser contract quicker in exchange for long-term security.

Santana is a solid mid-rotation option and not a bad consolation prize if the Yankees don't manage to re-sign McCarthy. The front office does not appear to be interested in the big-three pitching names, all of whom will cost at least close to $100 million. Losing another first-round pick is hardly appealing, but it's certainly not the same as trading away a major league player or even a high-level prospect. Personally, I'd rather have the McCarthys and their twitter accounts return, but there are worse options than signing Ervin Santana. What do you think?