Whatever Happened to Cy Young Winning Ace Johan Santana?
Johan Santana appeared headed for the Hall of Fame for most of his career.
Then, like plenty of talented aces before him, injuries struck. A few weeks after Santana pitched the first no-hitter in New York Mets history, he threw his final big-league pitch.
Eight years after his last MLB game, where is Santana now?
Johan Santana pitched 12 MLB seasons
A 6-foot, 212-pound pitcher from Venezuela, Johan Santana debuted as a 21-year-old with the Minnesota Twins in 2000.
Santana mainly pitched out of the bullpen until 2002, when he went 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA in 27 games (14 starts) and struck out 137 hitters in 108.1 innings.
Although Santana pitched 27 games in relief during the 2003 season, his 12-3 record and 3.07 ERA earned him a seventh-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
Then came 2004 and the start of a brilliant streak for Santana. From 2004-10, the crafty left-hander served as one of baseball’s best pitchers.
Santana went 110-57 with a 2.87 ERA across 222 starts in that span. He struck out 1,479 hitters, pitched eight complete-game shutouts, and won two Cy Young Awards. Santana made the All-Star Game every year from 2005-07, then again in 2009, his second year with the New York Mets.
A shoulder injury cost Santana all of the 2011 season. Santana opened the year 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA through his first 11 starts. That 11th start resulted in a 134-pitch, five-walk no-hitter against former teammate Carlos Beltrán and the St. Louis Cardinals.
That was Santana’s last highlight, though, and he went 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA in his next 10 starts before his season ended.
Santana had a brilliant peak with the Twins and Mets
For the final half of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s, Johan Santana was a special pitcher. According to Baseball-Reference, Santana was worth 50.5 Wins Above Replacement from 2004-10.
Nationals ace Max Scherzer is arguably the best active pitcher, even if he’s struggled at times this season. From 2012 through Aug. 17, 2020, Scherzer totaled an even 52 WAR.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw totaled a 47 WAR in that span even with his various injuries. Justin Verlander totaled a 43.8 WAR from 2012-19; Verlander is currently out with an elbow injury.
Scherzer and Verlander each seem headed for the Hall of Fame. Kershaw needs to stay healthy if he wants to lock in his case.
Santana didn’t even stick on the ballot. He received 10 votes and appeared on 2.4% of the ballots, far fewer than the required 5%, in 2018.
Where is Johan Santana now?
Johan Santana tried making numerous comebacks, but injuries got in the way. He signed with Baltimore in 2014 and Toronto in 2015 but never cracked the majors with either club.
Now 41, it appears Santana’s MLB career is over. The Minnesota Twins inducted him into their Hall of Fame in the summer of 2018.
Although he only pitched eight seasons with the Twins, his brilliance throughout that tenure could warrant a number retirement in the coming years.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference