Twins lose ace Ervin Santana for 10-12 weeks due to finger injury

Spring training does not open until next week, but, unfortunately, we already have our first pitcher injury of 2018.

Tuesday afternoon the Minnesota Twins announced veteran right-hander and staff ace Ervin Santana will miss 10-12 weeks with a wear-and-tear finger injury that required surgery. He had the surgery Tuesday in New York. Here is the team's statement:

The 10-12 week timetable puts Santana on track to return in late April at the earliest, so he's likely to miss at least the first month of the season. I suppose the good news is the injury happened so early in the year rather than towards the end of spring training, when he would've missed more time during the regular season.

Santana, 35, went 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA (134 ERA+) in 33 starts and 211 1/3 innings last season. He led MLB with five complete games and three shutouts. That performance earned Santana his second career All-Star Game selection as well as a seventh place finish in the AL Cy Young voting.

At the moment, Minnesota's rotation depth chart looks something like this:

  1. Ervin Santana (rehabbing from finger surgery)
  2. Jose Berrios
  3. Kyle Gibson
  4. Adalberto Mejia
  5. Aaron Slegers
  6. Phil Hughes (rehabbing from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery)
  7. Michael Pineda (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery)
  8. Trevor May (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery)
  9. Felix Jorge
  10. Dietrich Enns

Santana will be out until at least late April. Neither May nor Hughes is expected to be ready in time for Opening Day but could return at some point in the first half of the regular season. Pineda had his elbow rebuild last July and may miss the entire 2018 season. The Twins are down some key veteran starters at the moment.

Even before the Santana injury, the Twins were rumored to be looking for rotation help, and not just depth starters. They were connected to top free agents like Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb. Now that Santana is hurt, their search for pitching figures to intensify, and, fortunately for them, the slow-moving free agent market means there are plenty of quality players available.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Minnesota Twins
The Twins will be without their best pitcher for the start of the 2018 season. USATSI

The finger injury could also cost Santana some serious money. His contract includes a $14 million club option for 2019 that will automatically vest if Santana meets these three requirements:

  1. Passes a team physical at the end of 2018.
  2. Throws 400 combined innings from 2017-18.
  3. Throws 200 innings in 2018.

Santana has to meet all three of those requirements, not one of the three. He is going to miss about a month of the season, so chances are he won't be throwing 200 innings -- he's thrown 200 innings six times in his career, including in 2017 -- in 2018. That means the option won't vest and Santana will have to test free agency next winter, and in this current free agent climate, that might not be such a good thing for a starter pushing 36 years old. 

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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