TODAY: The early interest in Santana is robust, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, who writes that Santana “is thought to be drawing interest from as many as 10 teams.”
Among those reaching out to his representatives, per Heyman, are the Angels as well as two eyebrow-raising NL East clubs: the Mets and Phillies. The New York franchise has had its moments of frustration with Dominic Smith, though it would remain surprising to see him blocked entirely by a player that likely can’t be utilized anywhere other than first base. Mike Puma of the New York Post does tweet, though, that the club could send Smith back to Triple-A and eventually shop him. And the Phillies would appear to be set at first with Rhys Hoskins, though he could in theory be shifted to the corner outfield after experimenting there last year. (Of course, the team has other young players in the outfield and indications are that the preference is not to disturb that mix.)
YESTERDAY: The Red Sox have an obvious hole at first base in their lineup, and they’re set to begin the preliminary stages of filling that vacancy at this week’s GM Meetings. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that Boston will sit down with Carlos Santana’s agents at Octagon, while Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports that the Sox have also lined up a meeting with Logan Morrison’s representatives at ISE Baseball.
Boston isn’t alone in eyeing that pair, however. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports that the Angels are considering a run at Morrison as they look to add some left-handed punch to their lineup. Morrison is one of multiple players on Anaheim’s radar, Fletcher notes.
Meanwhile, the Mariners have interest in bringing Santana into the fold, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (on Twitter). There have yet to be any “substantial” discussions between the two sides, Morosi cautions (as one would expect this early in the offseason), but first base is a definite area of need for the Mariners. Seattle saw both Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia hit free agency when the season ended, and while Dan Vogelbach represents an internal option, he’s not considered to be a strong defender.
Santana, 32 in April, is widely considered to be one of the best first basemen available on the free-agent market this offseason. While he wouldn’t necessarily provide the huge power bat that many Sox fans covet — he belted a career-high 34 homers in 2016 but saw that mark fall to a more typical 23 homers in 2017 — Santana is an on-base machine who has also worked himself into one of the premier defensive first basemen in the league.
A switch-hitter, Santana batted .259/.363/.455 this past season and has never posted an OBP south of .351 in a season. Santana has walked at a 15.2 percent clip in his career against just a 17 percent strikeout rate (13.2 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively, in 2017). Originally a catcher, Santana eventually moved off the position to first base and has built up a quality reputation there. He was a Gold Glove finalist this past season after registering a +10 Defensive Runs Saved mark and a +4.8 Ultimate Zone Rating. The Indians made a qualifying offer to Santana, so he’d cost the Red Sox their second-highest pick in next year’s draft as well as $500K of their international signing pool. The Mariners would have a lighter penalty, only surrendering their third-highest pick.
As for Morrison, he’s a younger option that’ll play most of next season at the age of 30. A longtime top prospect, Morrison’s career never fully took off as hoped in either Miami or in Seattle. However, he rebounded from a slow start with the Rays last year to hit .275/.350/.498 with 14 homers over his final 303 plate appearances before a wrist injury ended his season.
Morrison returned to the Rays as a free agent on a one-year, $2.5MM contract this past offseason and proved to be one of the top bargains in all of baseball. In 601 plate appearances, Morrison posted a .246/.353/.516 line and 38 homers while receiving slightly above-average marks from DRS and UZR himself (+1 from each metric). He doesn’t come with the platoon issues that many left-handed hitters carry, either, as he hammers right-handed opponents and has been a bit above average against lefties over the past two years. Including his strong finish in 2016, Morrison has raked at a .256/.352/.510 pace (130 wRC+) with an 11.8 percent walk rate and a 23.1 percent strikeout rate in 904 plate appearances.
Despite that huge season, the budget-conscious Rays opted not to extend a QO to Morrison. Tampa Bay had already extended a QO to righty Alex Cobb and surely didn’t relish the notion of taking the risk, however small, of two players accepting one-year salaries worth $17.4MM. Morrison now benefits from that decision, though, as he won’t require interested parties to surrender a draft pick or international money upon signing.