Well, this is unexpected.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 15, 2017
I’ve argued all winter that Santana was going to do a lot better than the 3/$45M the crowd projected for him, and put him at #1 on my Free Agent Bargains post, as I thought the expectations of what he would sign for were just too low. And obviously the Phillies agreed, pushing up to the same deal the Indians gave Edwin Encarnacion last winter. 3/$60M is a perfectly fair price for what Santana is, and might still actually be a good deal.
But there’s no way around this; the fit in Philly is weird and doesn’t really make sense. Santana is a short-term value, a guy who can help a team win right now, but probably won’t age extremely well. We currently have the Phillies projected for 74 wins. Santana doesn’t push them into playoff position.
And given that they already have Rhys Hoskins at first base and a crowded outfield, it’s not actually clear where Santana is going to play, or if the redistribution of talent to get him in their line-up will be a significant improvement. They could stick Santana at third, I guess, but he was horrible there, and Cleveland pulling the plug on that experiment should be a red flag if that’s the plan.
If it’s not the plan, then Hoskins is probably headed back to the outfield, a position they didn’t think he could play last year, which is why he spent four months in Triple-A destroying minor league pitching. And while he might be better than expected out there, he’s probably not going to be good, and he’d displace either Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams, both of whom look somewhat interesting.
So, yeah, I don’t know. Carlos Santana is good. This price is fine, and maybe even a bargain. Every contender with an opening at first base should have been in on this. The Phillies aren’t a contender and didn’t have a need at first base, so now this is going to force other things to happen, and unless those other things are turning one of their OFs into a super valuable pitcher, I’m not sure this actually makes them much better.
It’s impossible to judge this until we know the plan. But that we don’t know the plan makes this a little bit weird right now.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.