Rangers utilityman Danny Santana has been one of the most surprising success stories of the 2019 season. Santana’s career began with a flourish as a member of the Twins in 2014, but he then performed terribly over parts of the next four seasons divided between Minnesota and Atlanta. Booted from the Braves’ 40-man roster last year, Santana caught on with the Rangers on a minor league contract over the winter.
Since the Rangers promoted Santana to the majors in the middle of April, the switch-hitting speedster has slashed .316/.346/.567 (128 wRC+) with 14 home runs, 12 steals and 2.0 fWAR in 281 plate appearances. Despite Santana’s best efforts, including a three-hit, six-RBI showing in a win over the Athletics on Thursday, the Rangers have backslid in recent weeks after looking like contenders for a while. The club’s still a decent 53-51 overall, but at five games behind wild-card position, rallying for a playoff spot probably isn’t realistic.
The Rangers’ place in the standings could influence them to sell by Wednesday’s deadline, and the 28-year-old Santana has come up as a speculative trade candidate. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported last weekend Santana has drawn interest from other teams, but that’s vague. There was no specification as to whether talks had gotten serious with anyone. Well, now we have an answer. According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas has “heard from only a few teams” in regards to Santana, and it hasn’t “seriously engaged any club in trade talks” for him.
With the Rangers set to open a new ballpark in 2020, when perhaps they’ll be better equipped to contend, Santana could stay as an important part of their roster going forward. As Wilson notes, although Santana has little third base experience, it’s possible he’ll take over as the Rangers’ starter there next season for Asdrubal Cabrera, who’s set to become a free agent. Otherwise, Santana may continue to function as the Rangers’ version of a Swiss Army knife. Thus far in Texas, he has totaled between five and 35 appearances at all three outfield spots and every infield position but third.
Not only has Santana been terrific at the plate and extraordinarily versatile in the field, but he has done it for a league-minimum salary. Santana also won’t rake in a ton next year via arbitration, and he’ll still be controllable for another season after that.
While Santana’s affordable control counts as a reason to keep him, it could likewise be an argument for the Rangers to cash him in for a rich return during the upcoming week. There’s also the fact that we’ve been down a familiar road with Santana in the past. His stellar rookie-year production came in spite of an ugly K/BB ratio and an unsustainable .405 batting average on balls in play. Santana’s K/BB issues have worsened since then – he has fanned 28.5 percent of the time and drawn walks at a meager 3.9 percent clip – while his BABIP (.401) is once again flying way too close to the sun and sure to plummet.
It’s clearly going to be difficult for Santana to continue to perform anywhere near this well as a hitter. At the same time, though, his Statcast profile shows he has made legitimate strides this season. Santana’s .335 expected weighted on-base average does pale in comparison to his .386 real wOBA, but it’s nothing to scoff at coming from an inexpensive player who can line up all over the diamond. The positives outweigh the negatives in the estimation of the Rangers, who seem content to keep Santana.