'Banged up' Santander shut down for 2021

September 28th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- Shuffling their roster again Tuesday in response to an onslaught of late-season injuries, the Orioles shut down , ending an injury-plagued season for the switch-hitting outfielder. The club placed Santander and right-hander Chris Ellis on the 10-day injured list, activating lefty Bruce Zimmermann, recalling Tyler Nevin and transferring Keegan Akin to the 60-day IL in corresponding moves.

The headliner is Santander, who emerged as an impact slugger despite dealing with consistent injury issues over the past three seasons with Baltimore. His production fell as a result this season; Santander slashed .241/.286/.433 with 18 home runs, 50 RBIs and a 92 OPS+ in 110 games amid ankle, hamstring and knee trouble. He was placed on the IL Tuesday with a left knee sprain, which he’d been playing through for several weeks.

“He’d been playing banged up for a while now,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It was a strange year for him. He was never fully healthy, and tried to do the best he could with some limitations. He felt good some days, didn’t feel good others. I give him a lot of credit for hanging in there and trying to help the team. When he’s right, he’s a difference maker in the middle of the order.”

The Orioles have seen that potential in spades, but only in short spurts. Santander came with a sizable injury history when Baltimore acquired him in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft in 2016. He dealt with shoulder issues down the stretch after reaching the Majors for good in 2019, then he had his breakout 2020 cut short by a severe lat strain. This year, Santander hadn’t been 100 percent since spraining his right ankle in Miami on April 20.

All told, Santander has slashed .252/.295/.474 with 49 homers, 141 RBIs and a 102 OPS+ in 240 games since 2019. He was a Gold Glove finalist in 2020, though he ranks as a below-average defender with -8 Outs Above Average since 2019, partly due to the frequent injuries.

“For me, he’s the guy we saw last year,” Hyde said. “He just never got his legs underneath him this year.”

It's a résumé that will determine one of Baltimore’s most interesting decisions this winter, when Santander is arbitration-eligible for the second time. He will be due at least a decent raise on his $2 million salary, ranking him as the second-most expensive player in what could be as big as an eight-man arbitration class.

The Orioles don’t have a single player under a guaranteed contract for 2022, but they have let similarly priced contributors like Hanser Alberto and Renato Núñez walk in recent years during their rebuild. The speedy development of upper-level outfield prospects like Kyle Stowers, who received co-Minor League Player of the Year honors along with Adley Rutschman this week, will also factor into the club’s calculus for next season.