Our Year in Review series continues as we take a look at how Johan Santana contributed to the Mets’ starting rotation in 2012. With questions surrounding the health of the staff ace, it was uncertain from the commencement of Spring Training whether Santana would be able to perform at a high level in the Major Leagues every fifth day for the duration of a long 162-game season, after missing all of the 2011 season, due to what many believed to be a career threatening surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule in September, 2010. To the delight of Mets fans, Santana proved to be a very effective pitcher, igniting the team with solid performances, while achieving a feature that will forever engrave Santana into the history of the organization. Unfortunately, Santana’s comeback season was cut short, after being shutdown in August, after an MRI result revealed an injury.
Performance on the mound
Santana started the season off strong — 0.90 ERA in first two starts of the season — before struggling in his third start, at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves where he had the shortest career outing — lastly only 1.1 innings — while giving up four earned runs. After putting up consistent quality starts for the first two months of the season, Santana opened the month of June against the St. Louis Cardinals, the National League’s top offensive team at Citi Field. Before Santana faced off against Adam Wainwright and the defending World Series champions, the game had already been grabbing headlines, as Carlos Beltran made his return to Citi Field as the enemy — after spending six and a half seasons as the main attraction in the outfield for the Mets. Nevertheless, Santana not only dominated the game, but did so in grand fashion, as he went on the throw the first no-hitter in Mets’ history. However, his historic performance came at a steep price as he needed a career-high 134-pitches to complete the milestone. Coming off major shoulder surgery, people around the sport of baseball questioned whether Terry Collins made the right decision to let him finish the game, at the cost of possibly affecting his performance on the mound for the rest of the season. After being given extra rest, Santana’s next test came against the Yankees in the Bronx. After Santana allowed six earned runs on four home runs in five innings of work, critics cited Santana’s workload in his no-hitter as the reason for his poor pitching performance. The rest of the season was all downhill for Santana, as he effectiveness declined the rest of the season. In his final start before the All-Star break, Santana faced the Cubs at home and in the fifth-inning he rolled his ankle in a race to first base as Reed Johnson reached on an infield single. After two consecutive outings in which Santana gave up six earned runs, the Mets announced on July 22nd, that Santana would be placed on the 15-day DL with an ankle sprain. Santana return in early August, only to struggle through two more starts, before the organization announced that he would be shut down for the remainder of the year, after an MRI result revealed lower back inflammation. During that stretch before being shut down, Santana earned his way into the record books, yet again, but in a negative manner, as he accumulated five consecutive starts in which he allowed at least six earned runs, ranking second to Willie Blair, who accomplished the same feat in six straight starts in 1999.
Projected Role in 2013
Given Santana’s current contract, barring any unforeseen injuries, he is expected to return to the Mets rotation next year. A large part of the decision to shut down Santana in August had to do with the goal of getting him healthy for 2013. After the poor second-half performance the Mets displayed, their was no reason to further risk the chance of greater injury, when the organization had already played itself out of contention. Us fans can only hope Santana will be healthy and able to be effective throughout the duration of the entire 2013 season. Can he be an effective? Of course, as he showed flashes of being more than compatible of doing so in 2012. The question lies in his durability and whether or not his body can hold up for an entire season. That is a question that can only be answered next year.
Contract status/Trade Rumors
In 2013, Santana will be entering the final year of a six-year, $137.5 million deal he agreed to back in January, 2008, after being acquired in a blockbuster trade from the Minnesota Twins. Santana is scheduled to make $25.5 million in 2013 and his contract currently holds a 2014 team option worth $25 million. His contract also holds a ’14 buyout worth $5.5 million. Given Santana’s injury history and the big price tag on Santana’s option, it is clear the Mets will elect not to pick up Santana’s 2014 option. 2013 could very well be Santana’s final year with the Mets, however, his contributions and impact on this franchise should never be forgotten, as we look back his tenure as a New York Met.