CLEVELAND -- While his teammates partied in the middle of the clubouse, Carlos Santana stood off to the side, sipping from his bottle of champagne in front of plastic-covered lockers. If this was going to be his last division-title celebration with the Indians, Santana wanted to take a minute to
CLEVELAND -- While his teammates partied in the middle of the clubouse, Carlos Santana stood off to the side, sipping from his bottle of champagne in front of plastic-covered lockers. If this was going to be his last division-title celebration with the Indians, Santana wanted to take a minute to soak in the scene in front of him.
"I will never forget this moment," Santana said at the time. "The playoffs. The World Series last year. It was amazing. It was everything -- like a dream."
Santana does not want the dream to end, but after a decade spent in the Indians' organization, the first baseman has earned the right to test free agency. There will likely be lucractive multi-year offers on the open market, but Santana knows what he has in Cleveland. He knows he has a place on the field and in the lineup, and the chance to keep contending for a World Series.
Five days after the conclusion of the World Series between the Dodgers and Astros, the Indians will decide whether to extend Santana a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer for 2018. Santana can begin talking to other teams as early as 9 a.m. ET the morning after the World Series ends, but free agents are unable to sign until five days after the Fall Classic's finish. If the Tribe offers the one-year deal, Santana would have 10 days to either accept it or continue pursuing a longer pact.
"He's a guy we'd like to have back," Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said at the end of the season. "We'll see if there's a way where we can make that happen."
The qualifying offer makes sense as a starting point for Cleveland, if only to help potentially secure Draft pick compensation. If Santana were to reject the one-year deal, and then sign a contract of at least $50 million in total value with another club, the Indians would net a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A in next summer's MLB Draft.
It would at least give Santana something to think about.
"I don't know what's in my future. I'm hopeful that I can come back," Santana said. "This is my house. This is my family. I know everybody. Everybody knows me. So, we'll see. We'll see. Me and my family, we'll have to wait."
Over the past seven years, Santana has played 1,070 games for the Indians. Only Robinson Cano, Elvis Andrus and Andrew McCutchen have appeared in more games in that period. During that span, Santana drew 689 walks. Only Joey Votto had more in that time frame. Santana ranks fourth and 22nd in career walks (726) and games (1,116), respectively, in Cleveland franchise history.
During the last seven seasons, Santana has averaged 24 home runs, 32 doubles, 81 RBIs, 79 runs, 98 walks and 153 games with an .808 OPS. The switch-hitter put up nearly identical numbers in 2017, compiling 23 homers, 37 doubles, 79 RBIs, 90 runs and 88 walks with an .818 OPS in 154 games. That kind of consistency, combined with Santana turning into an American League Gold Glove Award finalist at first base this year, will be attractive on the open market.
"It was one of the bright spots, and we had a lot of bright spots this year," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Santana. "Not just his defense, but his advancement, being a teammate, just his attitude. He was fun to be around. I think he's expressed to me so many times how he wants to stay here."
Santana's status is just one piece to the Indians' offseason puzzle, though.
Three days after the end of the World Series, Cleveland must decide whether to pick up Michael Brantley's $12 million option for 2018 or if attempting a restructured contract makes more sense. Right fielder Jay Bruce -- acquired from the Mets in August, making him ineligible for a qualifying offer -- is also eligible for free agency. There are also internal roster questions that will influence whom the Indians target this offseason.
Both the front office and Santana are currently considering their options.
"I never thought the Dodgers would trade me," said Santana, referring to the deal that brought him to the Indians in 2008. "Look now. Cleveland is my first home. I want to stay here in my house. It's good. All the players, we prepare for this situation. And right now, I feel comfortable inside and out."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.