During the Hot Stove, crazy trade ideas and free agency rumors are everywhere, and there’s often no way of knowing which ones have some degree of truth to them and which ones are attempts by agents to generate interest in their clients.
Which brings us to one of the more interesting rumors about the Phillies that has been floating around the Googleweb over the weekend.
Carlos Santana? The free agent first baseman/designated hitter formerly of the Cleveland Indians who will turn 32 years old next year? Seriously?
There’s no doubt that Santana is a productive offensive player who does a couple things the Phillies like: hits for some power and has outstanding plate discipline. Since becoming a full-time player in 2011, Santana has a slash line of .249/.363/.445 with 168 home runs, an average of 26 a season per 162 games. He doesn’t provide elite power, having hit more than 30 homers just once in his career (34 in 2016), but does have some pop. Last year he hit .259/.363/.455 with 23 bombs and 37 doubles in 667 PAs.
Among qualified first basemen, Santana’s fWAR of 3.0 ranked 12th, putting him in the upper half in baseball. His walk rate (13.2%) was much higher than the league average (8.5%), and his strikeout rate (14.1%) was much lower (21.6%). His walk-to-strikeout rate of 0.94 was better than any of the 13 Phillies players who accumulated at least 150 plate appearances last season (Rhys Hoskins’ was 0.80).
So there’s no doubt Santana does a lot of the things the Phillies want their hitters to do, but given the current make-up of the Phils’ roster, how would he fit in? After all, the Phillies already have an exciting young first baseman in Hoskins, and Santana doesn’t bring a skill to the table that Hoskins doesn’t, like better defense. And while Santana’s 3.0 fWAR was pretty good last year, Hoskins’ 2.2 fWAR in 202 PAs wasn’t to shabby either.
Of course, WAR ain’t everything, and there are two scenarios in which a Santana signing would be feasible. First, if general manager Matt Klentak were considering using Hoskins in a potential trade, that would open up first base for Santana. Second, if Klentak was considering using Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams or Odubel Herrera in a potential trade, they could shift Hoskins to left full-time and sign Santana to play first base.
If the Phils are considering using Hoskins, Altherr, Williams or Herrera in a potential deal, it would hopefully net the team a controllable young starter they could pair with Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation. But moving Hoskins to left field on a regular basis would hurt the defensive outfield. The offensive production of Santana would have to make up for that loss in run prevention.
Without a major trade going down, signing Santana just doesn’t make sense.