Santana 'happy' to be back with Mariners

June 29th, 2022

SEATTLE -- The Mariners reunited with an old friend on Tuesday when veteran first baseman and designated hitter Carlos Santana arrived one day after Seattle executed a trade with the Royals that sent right-handers Wyatt Mills and William Fleming, both prospects, to Kansas City.

Santana, who is expected to contribute regularly at first base while Ty France is on the IL, started Tuesday against Baltimore and batted fifth.

Santana was actually a Mariner for 10 days in December 2018, acquired from Philadelphia in the trade that also netted J.P. Crawford and sent Jean Segura to the Phils, one of the many early transactions of Seattle’s rebuild. He was then flipped to Tampa Bay in a three-team trade that involved the Mariners acquiring Edwin Encarnación.

“It was a situation that I couldn’t control, but baseball is like that,” Santana said. “I’m very happy that the Mariners brought me back. … Right now, this is my first day, and I feel good. I feel comfortable and everybody has been good to me.”

Mariners get:
1B/DH Carlos Santana, cash considerations
Royals get: RHP Wyatt Mills, RHP William Fleming

“Every time I see Carlos, I joke with him about that,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I say, ‘You're the favorite player I've never managed.’ He likes it and we have a good time with it. Obviously, he’s a tremendous clubhouse guy, a really good teammate, a switch-hitter who gets on base. Maybe the overall numbers don't look great this year, but I know he's been hot here in recent times, and hopefully he can help us out.”

Santana, 36, is in the latter stages of his career, which is in its 13th season. In 52 games this year, he’s hitting .216/.349/.341 (.690 OPS) with four homers and 21 RBIs, and he’s been worth 104 wRC+ (league average is 100) and 0.4 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs.

Santana was in transit on Monday and not available for the club’s 9-2 series-opening loss to Baltimore.

France continues to recover from a left elbow strain that landed him on the 10-day injured list on Saturday (retroactive to Friday). France’s initially scary prognosis has actually turned far more positive in recent days, as the All-Star candidate swung with a fungo in the batting cage when the club returned to T-Mobile Park on Monday. France said that he was at about 40% effort and that he was going to raise it to 60% on Tuesday.

Santana, who will be a free agent at season’s end, is earning $10.5 million this year, and it’s unclear how much the Mariners are absorbing, but a source told Royals reporter Anne Rogers that Kansas City is sending most of it.

A 2019 All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner, Santana isn’t necessarily the blockbuster splash that fans have clamored for in the days since France went down, but he could be an upgrade from the options they already had, including Kevin Padlo and Drew Ellis, who were waiver claims earlier this month.

Santana’s overall numbers this year haven’t been elite, but he’s been on a strong run in June, hitting .357/.478/.554 (1.032 OPS), production that the Mariners are banking on stays consistent.

“This is me,” Santana said. “All of my career, I’ve started slow but finished strong. The first two months, I had a lot of good contact, some bad luck. But I’m taking walks. I’m getting on base. In June, I’ve been doing a couple of approaches and everything is fine. My swing is good now and I feel good. We’ll see what happens with this new opportunity.”

It’s not just France who’s out, but also Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger, putting the club down three of its most productive hitters, though Haniger has begun jogging and Lewis is nearing a rehab assignment.

Santana still packs some pop, ranking in the 73rd percentile in average exit velocity and the 61st in hard-hit rate, per Statcast.

The guys they gave up

Mills, a former Gonzaga University standout, has pitched in eight games this season after appearing in 11 last year. He was a Top 30 prospect but he never had a consistent opportunity in the big leagues. He carried a career 7.59 ERA in the Majors and had a 1.83 mark this year in 19 2/3 innings at Triple-A Tacoma.

• Fleming, a 2021 Draft pick out of Wake Forest University, has made 14 starts for Single-A Modesto with a 6-6 record and 4.92 ERA. He was more of a bullpen guy, but they wanted to stretch him out as a starter to see how he’d develop.