It’s Nov. 29, and if you had to put together your best guess of what the Philadelphia Phillies 2019 Opening Day lineup will look like right now, one would think you would include Carlos Santana. He may be at first base. He may be across the diamond at third base. If he’s still here, you can bet he’ll be playing on an everyday basis. And while multiple reports have suggested that the Phillies at least have a willingness to listen to trade offers on the 32-year-old, there’s been no indication that a trade is especially likely.
In fact, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports says that there doesn’t appear to be a group of teams seriously interested in trading for Santana at this juncture:
There’s no known trade market for Santana at present. Some teams that could consider first base are the Twins, Rockies, Cardinals and Astros.
In fairness, the market for Santana could be held up by the Arizona Diamondbacks willingness to listen to offers on six-time All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Of the four potential suitors, three of them – the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros – have been substantively connected to Goldschmidt. The Cardinals and Astros appear to be the favorites to land Goldschmidt, who can become a free-agent after 2019.
On top of Goldschmidt, Mark Reynolds and Matt Adams are two free-agent options that would likely be cheaper than trading for Santana. Nelson Cruz, Evan Gattis and Hanley Ramirez are three potential designated hitter options that teams could sign instead of trading for Santana. The Twins also acquired former Tampa Bay Rays first baseman/designated hitter C.J. Cron earlier this week. Considering Cron is coming off of a 30 home run season, that could reduce their interest in trading for Santana.
2018 showed that Rhys Hoskins isn’t a fit in the outfield. Truth be told, his best fit would probably be at DH, but that’s not an option in the National League. So at the very least, the Phillies likely will have Hoskins playing at first base during games where they have fly-ball pitchers on the mound. Santana could play third base on a more regular basis in 2019 – the Phillies experimented with that in September and he was serviceable at the hot corner. The former catcher certainly has the arm to play at third. But lost in this discussion is that in 2014, Santana did play 225.2 innings at third base for Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians. In that stretch, he had six errors, -5 defensive runs saved and posted a -4.4 ultimate zone rating. Perhaps most noteworthy is that while playing third base in 2014, Santana made just 12.5 percent of the plays that FanGraphs deemed as 40-60 percent likely to be made. And that was when Santana was 28 – he’ll be 33 early next season.
Depending on how the Phillies offseason plays out, Santana could find himself as the odd-man-out. However, even if he’s not a great fit on the Phillies roster, he does a lot of things the Phillies like – he walks, he hits for power and has traditionally been a much better fielder at first base than he showed in 2018. He’s also viewed as one of the best clubhouse presences in the sport. So it will be interesting to see if the Phillies are willing to take pennies on the dollar for Santana, while also likely eating at least a chunk of the $40 plus million he’s owed over the next two seasons.
One thing is for sure: while a market for Santana could develop as we get further into the offseason, it’s not exactly encouraging to hear that a market hasn’t already started to form for a player that Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic said earlier this month that the Phillies were “shopping the hell out of.”
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