PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies officially announced that they've signed Carlos Santana to a three-year contract with a club option for 2021 on Wednesday morning. The first baseman was introduced at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
The deal surprised many because the Phillies had maintained throughout the offseason that they wanted to provide further opportunities for their young players. Sources dismissed reports that the Phillies planned to make a play for free-agent pitchers such as Jacob Arrieta and Yu Darvish or send a large package of prospects to Baltimore for Manny Machado, who will be a free agent after next season.
But the Phillies loved Santana on a three-year deal.
Santana, 31, hit .259 with 23 home runs, 79 RBIs and an .818 OPS in 2017 with the Indians. He has a career .365 on-base percentage and an .810 OPS. The Phillies like hitters that control the strike zone, and Santana excels at that.
The Phillies love the idea of Santana and Rhys Hoskins teaming up in the middle of the lineup with on-base percentage threats Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford surrounding them.
Of course, Santana's arrival means some players will be shuffled or lose playing time. Santana is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman and is expected to get the majority of playing time there, which means Hoskins will play mostly left field. Former Phillies coaches thought Hoskins might actually be a better left fielder than first baseman. Hoskins' move to the outfield creates a logjam, with Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr.
The Phillies might just keep those outfielders, understanding it is rare for four or five outfielders to stay healthy and productive over a six-month season, while providing manager Gabe Kapler roster flexibility. Still, if the right deal came along the Phillies could include Herrera, Williams or Altherr in a trade to help them acquire starting pitching, which is something the club considers a priority.
(Hernandez no longer seems like a trade candidate, following Freddy Galvis' trade Friday to the Padres.)
The Phillies would like to acquire a young controllable starter, like Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer or Danny Duffy, but the asking prices at the moment are steep. The Phillies plan to be patient and see how the market develops.
And while it is true that the Phillies have no interest in Arrieta at his current asking price, who knows? If he lingers on the market until late January or early February and the Phillies can get him on a three-year contract they could jump at it.
Because the Indians made Santana a qualifying offer, the Phillies will lose their second-round pick in the 2018 Draft, plus $500,000 in international signing bonus money. But the Phillies acquired $500,000 in international signing bonus money Thursday, when they traded their Rule 5 Draft pick to the White Sox. They also consider right-hander Enyel De Los Santos, whom they acquired in the Galvis deal, comparable to a second-round Draft pick.
Either way, they believe it is a small price to pay because they consider Santana a middle-of-the-lineup bat that will help the Phillies make a push to .500 or maybe even better if everything breaks right. And an improvement in the standings in 2018 only can help their cause next winter, when they are truly expected to open their wallet and pursue potential free agents such as Bryce Harper and Machado.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Although Santana is moving from a lineup that placed sixth in runs scored last season to one that ranked 27th, he remains a corner-infield option in shallow leagues after averaging 28 homers, 83 RBIs and 89 runs over the past two years. Additionally, Santana's ability to reach base (lifetime .365 OBP) and hit for power should be a boon for the production of Hoskins, Maikel Franco and Herrera. But with Hoskins moving to left field to accommodate Santana's arrival, a pair of intriguing youngsters -- Altherr and Williams -- will have to compete for playing time in right.