The Marlins have had some trade discussions with the Orioles about outfielder Anthony Santander, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports (Twitter link). The depth of these talks isn’t known, Kubatko notes, as it could have been due diligence on the Marlins’ part rather than a sign that Santander could be heading to Miami or anywhere.
Santander enjoyed something of a breakout performance during the abbreviated 2020 season, hitting .261/.315/.575 with 11 home runs over 165 plate appearances before an oblique injury ended his season on September 4. A look at the advanced metrics reveals some interesting details, as Santander didn’t make much hard contact or take many walks, but he also didn’t get much batted-ball luck in the form of a .248 BABIP.
Still, between some strong right field defense and 31 homers in 570 PA since the start of the 2019 season, Santander has made himself a key part of Baltimore’s rebuilding effort. He turned 26 last October and is controlled through the 2024 season, as Santander is a Super Two player and only became arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. (The two sides are scheduled for a hearing to determine Santander’s 2021 salary, with the outfielder looking for $2.475MM and the Orioles offering $2.1MM.)
This combination of talent and cost-effective team control would make Santander an attractive trade possibility for many teams, but particularly a Marlins club that is looking to both continue contending for the postseason without too much of a budget stretch. The switch-hitting Santander would also help balance out a Miami lineup heavy on right-handed batters. Garrett Cooper is currently slated to handle right field for the Marlins, but the team would have plenty of room to find at-bats for everyone if the DH returned to the National League in 2021. Since Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson are both free agents after the season, Santander would also be a longer-term outfield addition that could fill the void if either player departed.
Whether the Orioles see Santander as a long-term piece is another intriguing element, as a case could be made that the O’s should try to sell high on Santander now (or perhaps before the 2021 trade deadline) if they don’t think he’ll still be a prime contributor by the time Baltimore is ready to contend. Given that the Orioles still have a long ways to go in their rebuild, they might not be ready to compete by 2024, Santander’s age-29 season and his last under team control.
The Orioles’ financial situation adds another wrinkle, as The Athletic’s Dan Connelly reports that the team offered salary deferrals to Santander and Trey Mancini when talking to both players about their 2021 contracts. Both turned down the offers, which would have seen around 25% of their salary pushed ahead to 2022 or 2023. Mancini ended up avoiding arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $4.75MM deal.
Deferrals are a common element of contract negotiations, yet the idea of deferring money on a one-year arbitration contract was unheard of among “multiple agents and baseball arbitration experts…contacted for this story,” Connolly writes. While the deferral offers could have just been some creativity on the part of GM Mike Elias, Connolly also wonders if the offers were indicative of how little the Orioles might have to spend in the wake of 2020’s revenue losses. If this is the case, the O’s might look to try and deal Santander, perhaps attaching him to a larger contract (i.e. Alex Cobb and his $15MM salary) to clear as much money as possible off the books.
In other revenue news, The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli reports that the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (owned by both the Orioles and the Nationals) has made significant cuts, including several prominent on-air personalities. “This is a cash-flow problem, and there’s apparently not a lot of it,” a source said. Changes include the reduction of the pre-game and post-game shows from 30 to 15 minutes, with the broadcasters at the ballpark handling these shows rather than studio hosts and analysts. If the Orioles or Nationals want to continue the usual pre-game and post-game shows, MASN has informed the teams that they will have to fund them, rather than the network.