I don't care that Johan Santana is 35, has made just 21 major league starts since 2010 and that he probably just doesn't have a shoulder anymore -- this news excites me:
Among those with a scout at Santana's recent start in Venezuela were the Brewers, reports Efrain Ruiz Pantin. (h/t to Jim Goulart for finding that tweet). Also in attendance were the Rays, Rangers, Blue Jays and Mariners. The Yankees also reportedly have shown interest in the left-hander.
Any deal Santana signs is sure to be a minor league contract -- he signed a similar deal with the Orioles last off-season but never pitched an inning in 2014. Santana's injury woes first began in 2010 when he tore his left anterior capsule late in the season. He then missed 2011 and came back in 2012 to post just a 4.85 ERA before missing the last month and a half with back issues.
Santana tore his anterior capsule again prior to the 2013 season and has not returned to the majors. His deal with the Orioles would have paid him $3 million if he made the majors, but a torn achilles tendon in June ended his season prematurely.
Strong odds are that Santana will never pitch in the majors again. Still, stranger things have happened and he is reportedly determined to not let injuries force him into retirement.
Even the microscopic chance that Santana shows enough to be a viable pitcher is enough to get all these teams at least interested in checking him out. Santana was once one of the best pitchers in the game, winning two Cy Young awards and posting a 2.82 ERA, a 3.21 FIP and a 9.2 K/9 from 2004-2008. The former Twins and Mets star is one of the first examples people think of in a Rule 5 draft pick paying off in spades.
For the Brewers, there's not necessarily an immediate need but a team with an immediate need shouldn't be looking to Santana as a viable option. Milwaukee is already going to have Mike Fiers or Jimmy Nelson in the bullpen or minors, adding more competition isn't necessary. They'd be taking a flier on him, just to see if something happens. But that's not a bad thing, and it's a thing teams should do.
For Santana, he'll likely have similar contract offers from a few different teams. Close enough that he could choose where he might have the best chance of playing. That could be Milwaukee, potentially. Or, he could see the Brewers as an option because if they don't have room, they aren't above trading away a player to give him a chance elsewhere. As Derek pointed out earlier this week, they did exactly that with Brad Mills.
Having a scout watching him -- and Santana pitched great by the way, with two perfect innings -- doesn't mean the Brewers are necessarily waiting with contract in hand, of course. A lot of it just might be due diligence, just in case. But due diligence is also good -- the Brewers should be flexible with their options.
All in all, this is probably a lot of wasted words on a guy who is soon turning 36 and will likely never reach the majors again. But it's still fun to think about. What if Santana somehow made a movie-esque comeback and had one more great year? What if it was for the Brewers? How amazing would that be? It won't happen, but it would be the greatest thing.
And that's why I'm pretty excited about the Brewers scouting Johan Santana. I know that he won't be a Cy Young pitcher if he can even still pitch well enough to be in the majors. But he's a lottery ticket. You know you won't win, but you buy a lottery ticket for the 15 minutes that you dream about being a millionaire. I get excited about an interest in Johan Santana because for 15 minutes I can dream about him being 11-years-ago Johan Santana.
It would be a similar thing to what the Brewers did with Bobby Crosby and Kelvim Escobar in 2013. Both players were once good and Milwaukee brought them into spring training. Neither made it out still with the Brewers, but it was worth a shot. Given how good Santana once was, he's even more worth a shot.
Besides, it's fun to dream.