3 reasons to keep this O's slugger in Baltimore in 2023

November 18th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill's Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It’s the time of year when trade rumors run rampant, and if you’ve been scouring the web, one Orioles player mentioned frequently in all the speculation is outfielder Anthony Santander.

Baltimore has quite a few big league-caliber outfielders, and it could use a boost to its pitching staff. So it could make sense for the club to use the 28-year-old Santander as a trade chip to bring in an arm this offseason, right?

Not so fast, says the guy in charge of making those types of moves for the Orioles.

“Well, [Santander’s] been a popular guy with other teams since I’ve been here, but look, we like him,” general manager Mike Elias told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi at last week’s GM Meetings in Las Vegas. “He batted third for us all year, he can play a really solid right field, he’s great in the clubhouse. A switch-hitting DH, he goes well with Adley [Rutschman] in the middle of the lineup and the other guys that we have coming.

“So we see no real strategy in moving him, and I’m excited he’s coming back for the next two years. But, you know, obviously we do our jobs and we listen to people.”

Here are three reasons why it’d be the right decision to keep Santander in Baltimore heading into the 2023 season:

1. The O's need to add power, not subtract it

In 2022, Baltimore hit 171 homers -- 33 of which came from Santander. Ryan Mountcastle slugged 22, while no other O’s player hit more than 16. The Orioles ranked eighth in the American League and tied for 15th in MLB in long balls.

Santander showed increased power, setting career highs in homers and RBIs (89) while slugging .455 and posting a 117 OPS+. According to Baseball Savant, he ranked between the 81st and 88th percentiles in max exit velocity, barrel rateexpected slugging percentage and expected weighted on-base average.

To put it simply, Santander was not only sending the ball far, but he was hitting it hard. Baltimore’s lineup is better with that type of thump in it.

2. He could help fill the need for a 1B/DH type

Santander hasn’t appeared at first base since playing nine games there for High-A Lynchburg (part of Cleveland’s farm system) in 2016. Also, only 61 of his 354 starts since joining the Orioles in ’17 have come at designated hitter.

But with Kyle Stowers reaching the big leagues, the O’s now have a better defensive option in the outfield than Santander, who recorded minus-five defensive runs saved and minus-four Outs Above Average over 994 2/3 innings last season.

Back in the summer, Santander spent some time during pregame work fielding grounders at first. He wouldn’t need to play there all the time, but he could complement Mountcastle by serving in a role similar to the one Baltimore had Jesús Aguilar in late in the year, while also still being able to fill in in the outfield if needed.

3. The O’s could always trade him later

It’s never a guarantee that top prospects will pan out. But if things go according to plan and Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Dylan Beavers make pushes to the Majors over the next two seasons, there could be a logjam for playing time. 

At that point, there wouldn’t be anything stopping the Orioles from trying to shop Santander (who is under contract through the end of 2024) or another veteran outfielder. Santander may have even raised his trade value by then, should he continue to build off his strong ’22 showing.

Plus, if any of those youngsters need more seasoning in the Minors than expected -- or injuries slow their progress -- it will be helpful for Baltimore to still have Santander on the roster as it aims to compete for a postseason berth in 2023.