Over the past few days, just about every major free agent name has been connected to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Players such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, and Yusei Kikuchi have all been mentioned in those Hot Stove rumors. But there has been very little talk about the Phillies subtracting players to this point.
Fancred‘s Jon Heyman says that while the Phillies may not view trading Carlos Santana as a lock, it’s more likely that he’ll be playing corner infield for the Phillies in 2019:
“The plan right now is to have Carlos Santana play some third base and Rhys Hoskins to play some first base. Some wonder whether they might consider shopping Santana, whose signing forced the move of Hoskins from first base, where he was fine, to left field, where he is still a work in progress…”
This isn’t the first time trading Santana has been brought up. NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Jim Salisbury mentioned back in September that Phillies officials “at least discussed” the thought of trading the first baseman.
However, Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal seemed to have an opposing take, explaining that a trade of Santana would be “unlikely” by the Phillies. One of the main reasons cited by Rosenthal was that a trade of Santana would seem to signal the club showing they had made a mistake in signing him to a three-year, $60 million deal as he aged into his mid-30’s last December.
The 32-year-old Santana’s first year in Philadelphia brought mixed results. While his power was somewhat displayed by hitting 24 home runs, he also slashed an underwhelming .229/.352/.414 with a 1.7 bWAR mark. This was a far cry from the 3.4 bWAR which he produced the previous season.
Klentak claimed in an interview with Jon Ritchie and Joe DeCamara on Sports Radio 94 WIP that the Phillies got exactly what they had hoped for from Santana when they had signed him.
“He has been as consistent a performer as just about anybody in the league for the last seven or eight years,” Klentak said, mentioning the number of walks Santana worked this past season. Klentak also said Santana was a good defender, which the stats reveal isn’t entirely true.
Improving defensively is one of the main goals as the Phillies head into the off-season. The situation with Santana and Hoskins is entangled in any such defensive improvement. Both players posted negative defensive numbers at first base and left field, respectively.
Santana in particular led all National League first basemen in errors with 10 committed. In the same post by Heyman, it was noted that Matt Klentak said he knows it’s not possible to go from a bad defense to a great defense in one off-season.
Klentak also mentioned on in the interview on Sports Radio 94 WIP that he expects that which positions Santana and Hoskins play on a certain day will have to do with the kind of pitcher that’s on the mound, such as one who produces more ground balls than fly balls or vice versa.
Of course, that plan could very well change in an instant with busy activity during this Hot Stove season. As mentioned, they’ve been connected to a number of outfielders, including Harper and Pollock. Either one would give the Phillies a surplus, with not enough roster spots to go around. Depending on how much is spent, clearing some extraneous players’ salaries could be in order.
Trading Santana would be difficult for a number of reasons, though it’s not entirely out of the question. It’s more likely that he would be dealt to an American League team, since the DH would serve Santana well as he continues to age. However, Santana’s drop in production and large contract are two remaining obstacles that stand in the way. He is guaranteed at least $20 million in each of the next two years as he reaches age 33 and 34.
It is also very possible that Santana stays put and is right back in the lineup next season. Santana to third and Hoskins back to first could be a full-time switch for the Phillies instead of simply being decided by match-ups and opposition pitchers.
Regardless of how they proceed, Santana’s signing could prove as a cautionary tale for Philadelphia’s front office going forward. In what could be the most franchise-altering free agency season ever, general manager Matt Klentak and company need to be very smart in where they spend their money.
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