Matt Klentak says Phillies got what they hoped for from Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana left the Cleveland Indians to join the Phillies last offseason. (Erik Drost)

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak doesn’t want a mulligan on the three-year/$60 million contract that his team inked Carlos Santana to last offseason. In fact, he believes the Phillies received the exact type of production they anticipated getting when they signed Santana to  the lucrative deal last December.

Ahead of what figures to be a defining offseason, Klentak joined Joe DeCamara and and Jon Ritchie on SportsRadio 94 WIP Thursday. When asked if the Phillies got the production they expected from Santana in 2018, Klentak said they did.

“Honestly, yeah. His season was very Carlos Santana-ish,” Klentak said. “He has been as consistent a performer as just about anybody in the league for the last seven or eight years. He walked 110 times, [he had] more walks than strikeouts, he hit 24, 25 homers, worked long at-bats, was a good defender at first – he was great.”

Santana, who will be 33 early next season, hit 24 home runs and drove in 86 runs in his first season with the Phillies. His 110 walks in 2018 were the most a Phillie posted since Pat Burrell walked 114 times in 2007. He did walk 17 more times than he struck out in 2018, making him the first Phillie to do that since Bobby Abreu in 2004. In many senses, the Phillies got the exact production they expected from Santana in 2018.

At the same time, Santana did hit just .229 in 2018. His batting average on balls in play was .231, which was 34 points lower than his career average and 43 points lower than what he has posted in 2017, his final season with the Cleveland Indians. There’s reason to think that his batting average could bounce-back to some degree in 2019. He’s also a career .247 hitter, but his walks, which translate to a high on-base percentage, have made up for that.

Between 2015 and 2017, Santana did grade out as baseball’s fourth-best fielding first baseman. However, a few outliers in 2018 did dampen his season in the field. He had a career-high 10 errors in 2018, and went from posting 10 defensive runs saved at first base in 2017 to zero in 2018. Santana is the best fielding first baseman that the Phillies currently employ – and perhaps the most gifted defensive first baseman the club has employed in some time – but he didn’t consistently show that in 2018. From that perspective, it’s tough to call his first season in red pinstripes “great.”

Then again, Klentak said “he was great,” not necessarily that Santana’s production – which in many senses was on par with what he did throughout his career – was the best he’s ever put up. Another reason the Phillies signed Santana was that he is viewed around the league as one of the best clubhouse presences in the sport. He’s believed to have had a positive impact on Maikel Franco. He told Matt Gelb of The Athletic that Manny Machado, long viewed as a potential Phillies free-agent target this upcoming offseason, asked him what playing in Philadelphia and for the Phillies is like. And Klentak says that as far as players that Philadelphia can be proud of, Santana should be near the top of the list.

“We talked at the opening of this segment about trying to create a team that the fans can relate to and be proud of – I think Carlos Santana is the perfect guy for that,” Klentak said. “He is a grinder, he works his butt of, he wants to be out there – he’s a really good player for this town.”

Santana, who finished one win away from a World Series title in 2016 with the Indians, did make $18.3 million in 2018. While the Phillies probably overpaid both Santana and Jake Arrieta annually to avoid having to guarantee four or five years in a contract, there are some expectations that come with that type of salary. FanGraphs salary tool does say that Santana’s production in 2018 was worth $15.4 million, so from that sense he may not have been far off. It makes you wonder if Santana wouldn’t become a very appreciated player in Philadelphia if he was viewed as a complimentary piece around Hoskins and a couple external additions.

Of course, one of the biggest questions facing Klentak this offseason will be how to keep the bats of both Santana and Hoskins in the Phillies lineup while effectively allowing the two to co-exist in the field. There isn’t an easy solution to that question, but you get the sense that Klentak will do his best to find one.

“Now, the question is, how do we make all the pieces work?” Klentak asked Thursday. “And I think it’s a good question, but I’m a big fan of Carlos Santana.”


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