Carlos Santana, who averaged more than 25 home runs and 100 walks for the Cleveland Indians over the past four seasons, on Friday agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Phillies on a three-year, $60-million contract, sources confirmed. The deal is pending a physical. The agreement with the Phillies was first reported by FanRag Sports.
After six trying seasons, the Phillies appear bent on putting some aggressive touches on a rebuild that has cost them three last place finishes in four years in the NL East. Along with rumors they’d have interest in Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, they’ve signed relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, traded Freddy Galvis to San Diego to make J.P. Crawford the everyday shortstop and, of course, replaced their manager and coaching staff.
The deal with Santana is significant for the financial commitment and also suggests the Phillies believe they can be competitive sooner rather than later. The club must address its starting rotation.
Among the cornerstones of an Indians renaissance that has seen the club post five consecutive winning seasons, including a World Series appearance in 2016 and 102 wins in 2017, Santana was tendered a qualifying offer in November.
The Indians, whose payroll jumped last season to $125 million, also stood to lose Jay Bruce, Joe Smith, Austin Jackson and Bryan Shaw to free agency. Smith signed with the Houston Astros and Shaw with the Colorado Rockies. They also have to consider what is left for Michael Brantley, approaching 31 and limited by injuries to 101 games in the past two seasons. The Indians had considered Brantley at first base if they lost Santana. Also, assuming Jose Ramirez continues at second base and Bradley Zimmer returns to center field, whether Jason Kipnis is an everyday left fielder or made available in a trade.
If the Indians are loathe to spend beyond their means in free agency, they could dip into their surplus of starting pitching to address the outfield, third base or the bullpen. They could even trade Kipnis.
Where that left Santana and the Indians depended on his market. Santana’s power and plate discipline and deft glove would be attractive, particularly if Santana, who will be 32 in April, were willing to trade years for dollars, which he appears to have done with the Phillies.
The switch-hitting Santana is often among the league leaders in walks and is 19th among active players in career on-base percentage.
Traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to Cleveland (for Casey Blake) as a 22-year-old, Santana told reporters in October his preference was to return to the Indians.
“I’m hopeful,” he said. “I’m hopeful that I come back. This is my house. Everybody knows me. … My whole career I’ve played here and I feel so comfortable here.”
Said manager Terry Francona: “I love the kid. I hope he’s not moving on.”
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