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Johan Santana is entering the final year of a six-year, $137.5 million contract he signed before the 2008 season. He will earn $25.5 million in 2013, and the Mets hold a $25 million option on Santana with a $5.5 million buyout for 2014.

Santana, who turns 34 in March, went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts this season. After his no-hitter on June 1, Santana went 3-7 with a 8.27 ERA over his final ten starts, and averaged just under five innings per start over that span.

He lost his last five starts and had a 15.63 ERA in only 19 innings over that span – he was placed on the disabled list on August 22 (retroactive to August 18) after an MRI showed inflammation in his lower back.

One thing is probably clear: the Mets are very unlikely to exercise the 2014 option on Santana. I don't think that precludes them from retaining Santana beyond 2013, but that will depend on the state of their rotation, what Santana does and how healthy he is after 2013, whether Santana wants to come back or not, as well as whether or not there is common ground on a salary structure in a future deal. Personally, I don't see Santana back after 2013, but there is a lot of time between now and when the Mets have to face this issue, and a lot can happen between now and then as well.

Frankly, I am way more concerned about what Santana will be able to give the Mets in 2013 than what happens afterwards. The Mets are on the hook for a minimum of $31 million for Santana, and so they have to find a way to extract as much as they can out of him, all while protecting the best interests of the rest of the rotation and the team. I think a lot of his issues stemmed from this being a rebuilding year of sorts for him, and the fact he began throwing last December as a result. That, along with his continued recovery from the procedure and the normal wear and tear of a baseball season might have led to the myriad of breakdowns he had since June 1.

Now, he did accomplish a lot in 2012 and threw a no-hitter in between. Based on that, his athleticism, competitiveness and determination, I think there is hope Santana can still contribute at a high level. Hopefully the extra rest and a normal winter routine will benefit Santana which will enable him to withstand an entire season in 2013.

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Tags: Q&A, Michael Baron
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