Indians Get No Discount With Santana Extension

Offensively competent catchers are perhaps the rarest commodity in baseball, and clubs tend to go to great lengths to make sure they can keep those guys long-term. The Indians and Carlos Santana agreed to a five-year contract extension yesterday, a deal that guarantees him $21 million and includes a $12 million club option for a sixth year. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer both deserve credit for breaking the news.

Santana, 26, was already under team control through 2016. The new extension kicks in immediately, so it covers his final two pre-arbitration years and all three years of arbitration-eligibility. The club option covers one year of free agency. The Indians gained cost certainty more than anything, though that club option is obviously very appealing. Santana only signed for $75,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2004, so he gets some serious long-term financial security.

Catchers carry more injury risk than any non-pitcher position in baseball. Santana tore up some knee ligaments in 2010 after a collision at the plate, so Cleveland is well aware of the risk. They mitigated it somewhat last year by having him spend a ton of time at first base — 63 starts and 66 total games. Santana started 88 games behind the plate and another three at DH. Despite the presence of Casey Kotchman, I’m sure the Tribe will find ways get him out from behind the plate more than a few times this year, perhaps against left-handed starters.

Spending half the year at first base and DH is a great way to marginalize value, but it should help keep Santana on the field and that’s what’s important for both he and the team. In 658 plate appearances last season — his first and so far only full season in the show — he produced a .349 wOBA with 27 homers. His 14.7% walk rate was the eighth highest in baseball. Although he has shown a bit of a platoon split in his career — .347 wOBA vs. RHP and .383 vs. LHP — it’s just nitpicking at this point. The man can hit.

Most standout catchers sign multi-year contracts before hitting free agency because, as I said, they’re hard to find and teams will go to great lengths to make sure they keep these guys around. Here’s a sampling of similar offensive-first guys and their income during the years covered by Santana’s extension…

Santana M. Montero B. McCann J. Mauer M. Napoli
Pre-Arb
$0.5 $0.4M $0.5M $0.325M $0.425M
Pre-Arb $0.55 $0.425M $0.8M $0.4M $2M
Arb 1  $3.5M $2M $3.5M $3.75M $3.6M
Arb 2  $6M $3.2M $5.5M $6.25M $5.8M
Arb 3  $8.25M $5.9M $6.5M $10.5M $9.4M
Total $21M $11.925M $16.8M $21.225M $21.225M

Montero and McCann are really good players, but the Indians are gambling that Santana will be more like Mauer and Napoli, truly elite offensive performers. It’s worth noting that Mauer signed a long-term extension while Napoli went year-to-year as a Super Two, meaning he was arbitration-eligible four times rather than the usual three. They ended up making the same amount of money during similar portions of their careers, however.

The Indians should be able to get more plate appearances out of Santana by having him spend some time at first base, and he was definitely an elite hitter last season. There is every reason to expect him to mash going forward, barring something unforeseen like say, tearing knee ligaments while getting run over at the plate. Those are the perils of the position. Santana is very clearly one of the game’s best young players and most valuable assets, ranking 13th in our trade value series last summer and likely to place in the top ten this year. The Tribe isn’t getting much if any discount however, they’re paying Santana the market rate for elite offensive catchers and only secured one free agent year.





Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

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Steve
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Steve

Come on. His bat at C for $21M is a bargain. You just can’t convince me otherwise.

Andrew
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Andrew

Abritators don’t look at WAR, fyi. Not only does Santana get no credit for positional value, he’s also probably not going to be a high batting average guy. Very undervalued by the arbitration process.

Hermie13
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Hermie13

His first year numbers are very comparable to Prince Fielder’s first full year.

Santana was one of only four major leaguers to have at least 25 homers, 35 doubles and 90 walks last season.

The other three? Prince Fielder, Miggy Cabrera, and Joey Votto….what did those 3 guys average making over the 5 year period Santana just signed for? That is a better comparasion than a catcher like Mauer who was never a big power hitter (save one season) or Napoli who was a part-time player a lot of time and only broke out last year.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter

Hermie, despite putting up nice numbers in your cherry-picked stats, he still had an OPS of about 150-200 points lower than those three guys. Just because they might have been the only 4 players to get past your arbitrary threshold, it doesn’t mean they’re similar hitters.

Santana’s a good hitter, especially for a catcher. Your post is irrelevant though.

Hermie13
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Hermie13

I didn’t cherry pick. That stat line has been posted on every sports site in existence just about. I was simply re-posting it.

Santana did have a lower OPS…then again, he also was in his first full year whereas Prince was in his 6, Votto his 4th? and Miggy was a vet as well. Was an accomplishment to be in a group with those 3 in your first year.

Hermie13
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Hermie13

Again, compare Prince Fielder’s first full ML season with Santana’s. HR/AB rate were nearly identical as were most other important numbers. Fielder was a lot younger, but the arbitration process doesn’t really look at age, rather productivity.

Alan
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Alan

So you’re re-posting cherry picked stats. I guess that makes it less frowned upon

Hermie13
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Hermie13

And cherry picking one sentence of a post is so much better.