Carlos Santana Rumors
Indians manager Terry Francona said today that Carlos Santana will serve as the club's everyday third baseman, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports on Twitter. Francona emphasized that Santana will not platoon with Lonnie Chisenhall, but said that he will also serve as the team's backup catcher.
Needless to say, it appears that Cleveland's lineup construction will be interesting to watch as the season progresses. Of course, if Santana really does see regular part-time catching duties while playing every day in the field, any benefits from reduced wear and tear could be countered by the physical and mental burden of taking on a new position and receiving little rest. And if the team gives him some straight off days to account for this unusual challenge, rather than slotting him in at DH, it stands to lose his bat on those occasions.
For his part, Chisenhall will make the squad but faces a "fluid" playing time situation, according to a Bastian tweet. We broke down some of the potential hot stove implications of this possible move back in January.
The seven-year, $140MM offer that the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo was only on the table for less than a day. As MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince notes, New York offered Choo the contract and then pulled it back almost as quickly in order to instead sign Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45MM deal. "In my opinion, it takes some time to make a decision, maybe at least a couple days," Choo said. "You want to learn a city and a team. They gave me 21 hours." The Yankees' withdrawal could've been due to Beltran simply accepting his offer first, or perhaps because Scott Boras (Choo's agent), reportedly asked the Yankees to match the $153MM the Bombers gave to Jacoby Ellsbury. Choo didn't end up doing too badly for himself at any rate, signing a seven-year, $130MM deal with the Rangers.
Here's some news from around the baseball world...
- CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman lists 14 players who could traded during Spring Training. Most of these names have popped up on the pages of MLBTR over the last few weeks, though one new name is Marlins right-hander Jacob Turner. Heyman says there's "not a great chance" Miami would deal Turner but since the Marlins have a lot of good young pitchers, "folks on other teams speculate this could be the one arm the Marlins might move in that right deal" for offensive help.
- Ike Davis' calf injury has not only set back the Mets' first base competition, but it has also ruined any possible chance of a trade showcase for Davis during Spring Training, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The Brewers, Pirates and Orioles have all been connected to Davis in trade rumors during the offseason but obviously no move will be made any time soon, as Davis is currently in a walking boot and recently had an MRI on his right calf.
- Speaking of the Pirates' first base search, the team could end up finding its left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez already on the roster in the form of Andrew Lambo, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. While maturity issues and a 50-game suspension reportedly relating to marijuana use have set back Lambo's career, he is still only 25 and has posted some strong power numbers in the minors.
- "I just don't see what we have to lose," Indians manager Terry Francona says about Carlos Santana's attempted conversion to third base. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal recaps the reasons behind Santana's surprising decision to try the hot corner and how it could be a boon for the Tribe if Santana could handle the position.
- Nate Schierholtz wants to remain with the Cubs but is cognizant of the fact that could be traded, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. The veteran outfielder said he hasn't spoken to Cubs management about staying beyond his current one-year contract. Recent rumors put Schierholtz on the trading block thanks to Ryan Kalish's progress, not to mention the fact that Kalish is playing on a minor league deal while Schierholtz is owed $5MM this season.
Many have been quick to call Justin Masterson's reported three-year extension proposal to the Indians a bargain, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs takes a step back and wonders how benevolent Masterson is really being. Cameron admits that he, too, initially considered a three-year, $45MM or four-year, $60MM deal to be a huge value, but he looks at the cognitive bias of "anchoring," in which we subconsciously turn an initial price for one item into an anchor price for others. Cameron argues that rather than comparing Masterson to the statistically similar Homer Bailey, who signed away five free agent years for $95MM, we should look at Masterson's expected value over the next three to four years. Doing so presents the case that Masterson's offer is fair, but hardly a tremendous discount for Cleveland. He adds that the Indians aren't a club that can afford to pay market value for too many wins, so it may not be as much of a no-brainer as many initially believed.
More from the AL Central...
- While he's yet to determine if the Twins have placed a call, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN knows that White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza has quite a few fans in Minnesota's front office (Twitter link). De Aza would seem a peculiar fit for the Twins in my opinion, given the fact that he has just two years of team control and Minnesota has a number of young outfielders and outfield prospects.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while he didn't look like a catcher trying to play third base in practice, that's exactly how Carlos Santana has looked thus far in Cactus League games. Hoynes describes his play as "stiff and uncomfortable," though he notes that Santana has had few chances to this point and could improve by playing consecutive games at the position. For the time being, it appears to be good news for Lonnie Chisenhall, as if Santana doesn't man third, he would DH and serve as a backup at first, catcher and occasionally third.
- Left-hander Blaine Hardy has gone from being released by the Royals last year to a minor league flier for the Tigers to a leading candidate to join Detroit's bullpen this season, writes James Schmel of MLive.com. Hardy posted a 1.67 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, serving as both a starter and reliever. He's allowed one hit in five innings this spring, catching the eye of manager Brad Ausmus and establishing himself as one of the top candidates to fill a long reliever role at the big league level.
MONDAY: In the "Around the Horn" section of his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that despite Santana's comments, club officials will wait until Spring Training to make a definitive call on his position. The team still hasn't ruled out using Chisenhall at third base, according to Rosenthal.
FRIDAY: Carlos Santana has served as the club's primary backstop for the last three seasons, but says he is preparing to play at the hot corner in 2014, according to ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas (Spanish language link). Though Santana was known to be trying his hand at a return to third -- where he spent some time early in his professional career -- this report indicates a much more serious likelihood of a position shift.
As Santana explains (all translation errors mine), he is only preparing to play third at this point in time. "Those are the plans of the team at this moment," Santana said. Indicating that the club asked him to give third a try, Santana said he "took a month thinking about it before accepting."
Santana seemed destined to spend less time at the catcher position anyway next season, for several reasons. To begin with, the 27-year-old's bat is good enough to play anywhere on the diamond. Last year, he posted a .268/.377/.455 triple-slash, including twenty home runs, in 642 plate appearances. That was good for a 137 OPS+, a particularly impressive mark given that Santana labored behind the dish for 84 games.
And while any player can theoretically be more valuable while playing a defense-first position like catcher, Santana had increasingly struggled at the spot. Defensive Runs Saved panned Santana's work in 2013, and recent pitch framing metrics (e.g., here and here) have viewed him as a poor framer. There were good reasons for Cleveland to limit Santana's defensive impact, though of course third is hardly the easiest position. (And UZR has not looked kindly on Santana's 942 2/3 career innings at first, though he told Rojas that he never felt comfortable there.)
Most importantly, perhaps, is the emergence of Yan Gomes, who was picked up from the Blue Jays in a deal that has strongly favored the Indians to date. The 26-year-old's emergence last year played a big role in fueling the club's Wild Card run. He hit .294/.345/.481 in 322 plate appearances, splitting time at catcher with Santana. In just 88 games, Gomes was worth 3.7 fWAR and 4.0 rWAR, drawing positive reviews for his defensive work.
The news on Santana could have hot stove implications. For one, it may explain why the club has done little to push Lonnie Chisenhall outside of inking David Adams, who has just 152 big league plate appearances under his belt despite the fact that he will turn 27 in May. For what it is worth, Santana is a better hitter from the right side (.855 OPS vs. .794 OPS hitting lefty), though he'd surely find his bat at another position in the lineup if he were to platoon at third.
Of course, if Cleveland no longer plans to give Chisenhall regular at-bats, it raises the question why the team was so hesitant to part with him in a prospective Matt Garza trade deadline deal. And if Santana were to spend significant time at third, it could make the 25-year-old a candidate to be dealt. He was once a top-25 prospect, and his career .694 OPS has come in only 682 plate appearances over three MLB seasons.
If Santana is able to play a passable third, moreover, it could impact the fate of both he and Gomes. Spending less energy behind the dish, and more time in the lineup, could lead to bigger offensive numbers for Santana. He would make for quite an interesting multi-position player, given his outstanding bat, and would increase his stock as a trade piece or eventual free agent. (He is signed through 2016, plus the Indians hold an option for the following season.)
As for Gomes, the shifting of the club's prized young catcher off of the catching position would open up a world of opportunity. Gomes would presumably be looked upon as the catcher of the future in Cleveland. The Oliver and Steamer projection systems (via Fangraphs) both project him to keep hitting at better than league average, and view him as a three or four win player in a full-time role. Eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season, Gomes would have a chance to build real value through arbitration or as an extension candidate.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Royals are very interested in Carlos Beltran, but the Yankees remain the favorites to sign him, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. "I think at this point it would be an upset if he didn’t end up there," one executive tells Sherman. The Yankees have thus far been unwilling to give Beltran a three-year deal, but they could eventually land him by giving him three years or by paying heavily for two. Regardless of the Yankees' current issues, the perception of the Yanks as a winning organization matters to Beltran, even though they won fewer games than Kansas City did last year. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Sherman writes that the Mets are no longer interested in free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who missed last season with Tommy John surgery, because of concerns about his health. The Mets are looking for an upgrade over Ruben Tejada at shortstop.
- Furcal himself says that the Mets, Red Sox, Marlins, Pirates, Nationals, Rockies and other teams have shown interest in him, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (link in Spanish).
- After failing to find common ground on a contract extension, the Padres would listen to offers for Chase Headley, Sherman reports. The question is how he should be valued -- Headley hit .286/.376/.498 in a terrific 2012 season, then came back to earth with a .250/.347/.400 season in 2013.
- Even after landing Ricky Nolasco, the Twins will continue to strongly pursue free agents and trade possibilities, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets. The Twins have been connected to any number of starting pitchers, including Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes and trade targets Homer Bailey and Jeremy Hellickson. They've also been tied to catchers like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski.
- The Twins aren't the only suitors for Hughes, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Royals are also making "a strong push" for the former Yankees righty. Hughes is expected to receive a two-year deal, with the Mariners and Angels potentially being involved along with the Royals and Twins. Berardino also points out that Hughes' agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, also represents Jason Vargas, who recently signed a four-year deal with Kansas City.
- The Royals need a second baseman, and a team official recently told the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton that the Royals think Mark Ellis "has something left" (via Twitter). Ellis, 36, hit just .270/.323/.351 last season with the Dodgers, but he's a consistently-above-average defensive player.
- Carlos Santana of the Indians would like to play in the field more, but the Indians already have good options at catcher in Yan Gomes and at first base in Nick Swisher. Instead, then, Santana would like to try third base, and Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Indians are interested in the possibility, in part because Santana is taking initiative rather than complaining. (He's working out at third at the Indians' Dominican facility.) Whether Santana can field at third base is an open question -- he hasn't played more than a handful of games at the position since 2006, when he was in the Dodgers' minor-league system. If the Indians have any confidence he can play there, though, they might be less inclined to pursue a righty-hitting third-base type this offseason. Lefty-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall, who struggled last season, currently sits atop the Indians' depth chart at third.
Among teams that currently sit on the fence between buying and selling, the Indians certainly have among the most difficult choices. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince recently looked at Cleveland's dilemma. (He also names the Phillies, Royals, Padres, and Rockies as 50/50 clubs.) Though the Indians made several prominent free agent acquisitions this year, Castrovince says, they did not do so with an eye solely on 2013. On the other hand, with the team facing several needs and sitting just 3.5 back of the division-leading Tigers despite a four-game skid, now may be the time to strike. Here are a few links addressing that issue:
- While starting pitching may be an obvious place the Tribe could look to make an addition, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal notes that there are many teams in on that market. Moreover, the options are relatively scarce. Ricky Nolasco is now taken, Cliff Lee would cost an immense sum in prospects and dollars, and Matt Garza is a hot commodity who hits free agency next year. With Jake Peavy injured, the only other prominent option may be Bud Norris, and Ocker opines that the team may be better off relying on his internal choices rather than reaching to pick up the steady-but-unspectacular Astros righty, who should command more in trade value than Nolasco given his younger age and team control.
- Looking at available bats and relievers, Ocker again sees few options. He mentions Twins first baseman Justin Morneau as a possibility, but it is not clear that the pending free agent will be dealt, and if so whether he'll be worth what Minnesota will demand for a core player. Ocker ultimately concludes that GM Chris Antonetti may be best served by looking to shore up the back end of the bullpen.
- Likewise, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tackled the possibility of the Indians shopping for a starter. Ticking through the above-noted suspects (including Yovani Gallardo, whose no-trade list includes Cleveland), Hoynes offers some thoughts on what it may take to get Norris. He suggests that the Indians might need to give up righty Danny Salazar, outfielder Tyler Naquin, and one or more additional well-regarded prospects. While it's not clear that Norris would require quite that much in return, Hoynes implies that the price would be prohibitive. (For reference, Baseball America called Salazar the club's sixth-best prospect at the start of the year, with Naquin third on the list.)
- Hoynes ultimately says that the most likely route the Indians could take is to add a left-handed bullpen piece. With players like Matt Thornton (White Sox), Mike Gonzalez (Brewers), and Oliver Perez and Charlie Furbush of the Mariners potentially available, the club could look to improve its middling success at retiring opposing lefties.
- Taking questions from readers, Hoynes offers that the Indians are unlikely to find adequate value were the team to try and acquire pitching in exchange for young, cost-controlled catcher Carlos Santana. He also rejects the concept of an attempt to nab the aforementioned Lee by dangling top prospect Francisco Lindor, especially given Lee's enormous salary. Hoynes does note that the organization has impressive middle infield depth at its lower level, and could be more flexible in utilizing such prospects in a deal.
White Sox outfielder Casper Wells was perhaps the most successful pitcher yesterday for Chicago. The interesting backstory can be read here. The Sox gave up two ballgames in incredible fashion to the division rival Indians. Let's take a quick look at the Tribe, along with their American League Central foes from Minnesota:
- Looking ahead for the Indians, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal wonders whether this could be the last season that Carlos Santana toils behind the dish. With a Yan Gomes/Lou Marson tandem potentially capable of holding down the catching role, and Santana's offensive gifts outpacing his defensive development, Ocker says that Santana makes more sense as a first baseman/designated hitter going forward.
- Of more immediate concern, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes that Cleveland's seeming rotation depth has suddenly dissolved. In his view, GM Chris Antonetti should be aggressive in looking to bolster the starting staff in advance of the trade deadline. Of course, the Indians would join a growing list of clubs looking to add starters from a relatively sparse pool of potentially available candidates.
- The Twins haven't ruled out a September call-up for top prospect Miguel Sano this season, according to Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com. "I guess we'll let him dictate that," GM Terry Ryan said. "And certainly it'll be a little bit of a situation of what's going on with the major league team as well." Sano's trademark power has been evident this season, despite a .236 batting average in 17 Double-A games, and Ryan is also impressed with the third baseman's work on the defensive side of the ball. "His defense is better than his offense down there [at Double-A] to this point, which is good. I think anybody that's seen him realizes he's going to hit, and certainly in time I think he'll catch up with Double-A pitching."
- Meanwhile, Ryan is keeping quiet on the team's plans in the pre-trade deadline period. As MLB.com's Kelly Erickson reports, the veteran GM says he has not even determined that the team will sell since Minnesota sits just seven games out of first. "People get a little jumpy at this time of year," says Ryan.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spoke with agents and rival executives about where Josh Hamilton might land and the Nationals, Phillies, Mariners, and Orioles often came up in conversation. The Phillies would appear to be a stretch for both financial and baseball reasons, but two industry sources say the club is quietly checking in on him. It was reported earlier this week that the O's are targeting Hamilton but Rosenthal would be surprised if owner Peter Angelos, who emphasizes that his GMs find him players with a history of good conduct, can be talked into it. Here's more from Rosenthal..
- The Brewers are discussing a new deal with first baseman/right fielder Corey Hart. The 30-year-old is seeking a three-year extension but the Brewers might prefer to give him two more years while increasing his 2013 salary. Hart is under contract for one more season at $10MM.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean expressed confidence that the team would re-sign free agents Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Jeremy Affeldt. Meanwhile, sources say that other teams are more aggressive than the Giants on Pagan right now.
- It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Indians trade Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Chris Perez, and Justin Masterson, all of whom have two or fewer years of control remaining. However, catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana, signed for four more years, is more likely to stay.
Ian Kinsler (five years, $75MM), Carlos Santana (five years, $21MM) and Brandon Phillips (six years, $72.5MM) are the latest star players to sign long-term extensions. Here's more extension chatter from around MLB...
- The Indians have spoken to the representatives for Justin Masterson about an extension, but the sides appear to remain far apart, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. Talks seem to be on hold for the time being. Tim Dierkes suggested in January that a four-year deal in the $27MM range could work for the Indians and the Randy Rowley client.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs shows that the aging curve for second basemen is pretty steep, but says the Kinsler contract was a deal worth doing for the Rangers.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has the year-to-year breakdown for Santana's deal (on Twitter).
- Mike Axisa explains that the Santana extension doesn't provide the Indians with a substantial discount in a piece at FanGraphs. However, the Indians did extend their control over the catcher.
The Indians announced that they have agreed to a five-year extension with switch-hitting catcher Carlos Santana. The deal, which includes a club option for 2017, is worth $21MM in guaranteed money. Santana is represented by Andy Mota of the Wasserman Media Group.
The contract covers the 2012-16 seasons: Santana's final two pre-arbitration seasons and his three arbitration seasons. If exercised, the club option would keep Santana in Cleveland for his first free agent season.
Cleveland acquired the switch-hitting Santana from the Dodgers for Casey Blake at the 2008 trade deadline. The 26-year-old went on to blossom into one of the game's best catching prospects, twice ranking in the top-30 of Baseball America's annual top 100 prospects list. Santana has hit .244/.364/.464 in roughly a year and a half as a big leaguer, and last season he hit .239/.351/.457 with 27 homers while splitting time behind the plate and at first base.
Santana was called up in early-June of 2010 and appeared likely to fall short of qualifying as a Super Two after the season. The Indians controlled him through 2016 before the extension. Not too many catchers with 1-2 years of service time have signed multi-year deals recently, as Jonathan Lucroy (four years and $11MM) represents the only notable example.