There are more moving parts involved in the Philadelphia Phillies off-season roster machinations than any other team in Major League Baseball.
The 2018 Phillies vaulted to the top of the National League East Division only to collapse to finish with a sixth straight losing record. General manager Matt Klentak is now ready to shake things up in order to make the club a genuine long-term contender.
Last December, Klentak made his first real big free agent signing when he added first baseman Carlos Santana, formerly of the Cleveland Indians. Santana was given a guaranteed three-year, $60 million contract that would cover his ages 32-34 seasons.
In return for the first $20 million this past season, Santana slashed .229/.352/.414 for the Phillies. He ripped 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and scored 82 times.
Those stats were pretty close to his career averages. Over his first eight seasons in Cleveland, Santana slashed .249/.365/.445 and averaged 22 home runs, 73 RBI, and 72 runs.
Earlier this month our Tim Kelly here at Phillies Nation published a piece that included a quote from Klentak on Santana’s performance: “Honestly, yeah. His season was very Carlos Santana-ish. He has been as consistent a performer as just about anybody in the league for the last seven or eight years.”
The problem isn’t that Santana didn’t live up to his career numbers. The problem is committing this young Phillies team to an aging Santana for three years. A limited player who, despite the Phillies attempts to move him across the infield to third base, is only a first baseman.
Another problem with Santana was that the Phillies already had their first baseman in Rhys Hoskins, another player who has no other defensive position at which he is even marginal. That despite the Phillies attempts to push him out to left field.
In a report from our Drew Rhoades here at Phillies Nation just last week, Fancred’s Jon Heyman was quoted that the Phillies plan for 2019 is “…to have Carlos Santana play some third base and Rhys Hoskins to play some first base.”
The Phillies seem to be compounding their defensive problems and pushing young players out in order to fit Santana in to their lineup. First moving Hoskins to left field, now possibly benching or trading Maikel Franco?
This was the classic “square peg in a round hole” scenario. There is simply no place here for Santana. There never was. It was, in my oft-stated opinion, an illogical, unnecessary, and wasteful signing in the first place.
Now comes word from one of the most informative and reliable of all MLB insiders, Ken Rosenthal, that the Phillies are actively looking to trade Santana.
According to a piece released by Rosenthal with The Athletic earlier this morning, a rival executive has stated that the Phillies are “shopping the hell” out of Santana.
A rival executive says the Philadelphia Phillies are “shopping the hell” out of first baseman Carlos Santana, with the idea of returning left fielder Rhys Hoskins to first.
Rosenthal goes on to break down the situation as follows:
“Good idea: According to the latest Bill James Handbook, Hoskins’ minus-24 defensive runs saved was the second-worst number for a left fielder since Sports Info Solutions began tracking the metric in 2003, ahead of only Adam Dunn’s minus-26 in 2007.”
“The Phils, who signed Santana to a three-year, $60 million free-agent contract last off-season, undoubtedly would need to include cash to facilitate any deal — and that might be on top of paying, ahem, Harper or Machado and whoever else they might acquire.”
If it is indeed the case less than a year after signing him and less than two weeks after defending that signing that Klentak is now suddenly and aggressively shopping Santana, my bet would be that it comes with pressure from above, most likely controlling owner John Middleton.
That is pure speculation on my part, but it is educated speculation based on the public statements made by the two men regarding the team this off-season. While Klentak has continuously defended his questionable moves, Middleton has been steadfast in his determination to turn the Phillies into a consistent winner.
If the Phillies can indeed unload Santana to another team and get back any of the money owed to him over the next two seasons, that would be considered a tremendous example of recognizing a mistake and doing what it takes to quickly turn the page.
The Phillies are a better team with Hoskins at first and Franco at third, and with finding more productive bats and better defenders to play on the corner outfield spots and at shortstop. Whether those be Harper and Machado or some other combination of new players, moving on from Santana would be a good start to this important off-season.
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