The Minnesota Twins received a $7 million payroll break days before the 2015 season after the club’s marquee free agent acquisition, Ervin Santana, was suspended 80 games for PED use. The hefty figure, one that represented nearly seven percent of their entire payroll, was a nice savings bonus and silver lining in an unfortunate situation. While the Twins managed to have one of the better AL rotations during the first half of the season, successfully eliminating any starting pitching concerns as they became AL Central contenders, the real question became not what they could do with the extra $7 million, but instead, what is one, two, three or four postseason starts worth? $7 million?

The veteran tested positive for stanozolol in the days leading up to his first season in Minneapolis, one that was suppose to begin with him on the mound as their opening day starter in Detroit. Instead, he was booted from the rotation for 80 games, relinquishing the pro-rated portion of his annual salary as a result. Santana returned to action on Sunday afternoon, throwing eight excellent innings in the Twins’ loss to Kansas City. He yielded only two runs before watching their bullpen implode, again.

His return feels more like a game-changing trade deadline acquisition than return from suspension, especially with the Twins hanging around in the American League playoff picture and their need for a reliable innings-eater. Barring injury, he’ll likely start between 14-16 ballgames over the next three months and attempt to pitch effectively for arguably the most surprising rotation in baseball. That’s the good news for a team that hasn’t been in contention this late in the season since 2010. The bad news? He can help the Twins reach the postseason but he cannot throw a single pitch in it.


The league’s Joint Drug Agreement added the stipulation in 2014 after Nelson Cruz (Orioles) and Jhonny Peralta (Cardinals) were each suspended 50 games during the regular season but returned when their respective teams made the playoffs. The massive 60-page document includes the following in Section 7-H-2 on Page 41:

Any Player who is suspended for a violation of Sections 7.A, 7.E, 7.F, or 7G.2 involving a Performance Enhancing Substance shall be barred from participating in the postseason (including, without limitation, being in uniform during his club’s postseason games) during the season in which his suspension commenced even after completion of his suspension.

The postseason banishment seemed trivial at the time of his suspension announcement, April 3rd, because the Twins were coming off four-straight putrid seasons and were projected to comfortably finish below .500 again. However, a scorching hot month of May followed by a handful of big wins in June have them holding down one AL Wild Card spot and only 4.5 games back of the Royals for the division crown. Granted, three months remain in the season and they could ultimately fall out of the postseason picture but there remains a very real possibility they could reach the playoffs for the first since since 2010. If that’s the case, their high-priced veteran pitcher will be ineligible.


Photos Courtesy: Kansas City Star, AP