The Mariners and Pirates are among the teams showing interest in free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Both Heyman and Robert Murray of FanSided write that the Brewers also have continued interest, aligning with comments from Milwaukee GM Matt Arnold at the Winter Meetings.
As with Milwaukee, Seattle and Pittsburgh are each familiar with Santana. He has played for all three as part of a 14-year MLB career spanning six clubs. The Mariners acquired the veteran switch-hitter from the Royals at the 2022 deadline. He struggled to a .192/.293/.400 line across 294 plate appearances before hitting free agency last offseason.
That led Santana to Pittsburgh on a one-year, $6.725MM free agent pact. He hit .235/.321/.412 over 393 trips to the dish. Once the Bucs fell out of contention, he was on the move for the second straight summer. Pittsburgh dealt him to Milwaukee for a rookie ball infield prospect. At the time of the trade, the Pirates and Santana each expressed openness to revisiting talks this offseason.
Santana was a decent contributor for Milwaukee down the stretch. He connected on 11 homes in 52 games, batting .249/.314/.459. He finished the season with a .240/.318/.429 line with 23 home runs in 619 plate appearances between the NL Central rivals. While his 10.5% walk rate was a career low, it still checked in above league average. Santana takes free passes and remains difficult to strike out, although he annually posts very low averages on balls in play.
That has added up to around league average offensive production for the past four seasons. That’s not especially exciting at first base, but Santana contributes more than most at the position with the glove. Defensive Runs Saved and Statcast’s Outs Above Average have continued to grade him as a plus defender even as he moves into his late-30s. Santana has also been very durable and is widely regarded as an excellent clubhouse presence (as evidenced by interest from three of his former teams).
Of that trio, Milwaukee seems the most straightforward. The Brewers don’t have an obvious answer at first base. Milwaukee acquired Jake Bauers from the Yankees and tendered him an arbitration contract, but he’s coming off a .202/.279/.413 showing in the Bronx.
Seattle and Pittsburgh have starting options at first base, although neither is coming off a great year. Ty France slumped to a .250/.337/.366 slash with below-average defensive grades. Still, France’s cumulative .285/.355/.443 showing between 2020-22 hints at a higher offensive ceiling than Santana provides at this stage of his career. The M’s signed Mitch Garver to handle the bulk of the designated hitting duties.
Pittsburgh brought in Santana’s former Milwaukee teammate Rowdy Tellez on a $3.2MM rebound flier. They re-signed Andrew McCutchen to take the DH spot. The Pirates could bump Tellez to the bench, but they’d be committing more money than they’re typically willing to first base/DH at that point. Santana is likely limited to another one-year deal but could find a similar salary to last year’s near-$7MM pact. With McCutchen, Tellez and Connor Joe ($2MM arbitration projection) all on the roster, a reunion could be a tough fit.