Braves open wallet to sign Santana after string of injuries to starting pitchers

It required busting the budget, but the Atlanta Braves have a replacement for Kris Medlen.

Free agent Ervin Santana, who had spent his entire nine-year career in the American League, agreed to a one-year deal worth $14.1 million.

That increases the Braves’ 2014 payroll to about $110 million — nearly $20 million more than last season.

“This is going to push us well above what we thought our budget would be this year,” General Manager Frank Wren said Wednesday while announcing the deal.

The Braves were desperate, though. Medlen is almost definitely headed to a second Tommy John elbow surgery and Brandon Beachy may have suffered another setback in his return from the proceedure.

“In light of what has happened over the past few days with our pitching staff, we felt it was incumbent on us to do everything we could to strengthen our starting pitching,” Wren said.

The Braves will still likely have to start the season with a four-man rotation of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale.

Santana is already in camp, but isn’t likely to be ready to pitch until mid-April — also the projected time for Mike Minor. The left-hander hasn’t pitched yet this spring after a bout with shoulder soreness.

Beachy is also not expected to be ready for the start of the season after having to leave a spring start after two innings on Monday because of arm stiffness. He is being evaluated further.

Santana, 31, went into the offseason as one of the leading free-agent starters, but no one had matched the amount he had expected in a long-term contract. He was talking to several teams, but decided on a one-year deal when the Braves’ need developed.

The Braves will have to send the No. 26 pick in the draft to Kansas City as compensation.

Santana was 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA with the Royals in 2013 after having a down season with the Los Angeles Angels the previous year.

The right-hander has a 105-90 career record and 4.19 ERA in 268 games with the Angels and Royals. He pitched a no-hitter for the Angels at Cleveland in 2011 and won 17 games the previous year.

A distraught Medlen admitted Wednesday that he is almost assuredly headed to a second Tommy John surgery, although a final determination hadn’t been made. He had the first surgery in 2010.

Medlen, expected to be the Braves’ starter on opening day, was 24-12 with a 2.47 ERA in 44 games after moving into the rotation following the all-star break in 2012 and only the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has a better ERA among major league starters in that time span.