The Winter Meetings may have just concluded but the action around Major League Baseball’s free agent market is just getting started. The Philadelphia Phillies added a big piece to their puzzle this afternoon, signing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, to a three-year, $60 million deal, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
Santana, 31, will be leaving the Cleveland Indians, with whom he has spent the first 8 years of his career, to join an up-and-coming Phillies team looking to contend in the amorphous National League East division. Santana had another solid, productive year for Cleveland in 2017, slashing .259/.362/.455 with 23 home runs and 79 runs batted in. He also showed a proficiency in driving the ball deep this past season by recording 37 doubles, the second highest of his career besides the 39 he hit in 2013.
Santana brings a lot more to the table than just power, however. He also has great plate discipline, as he finished top 10 among all Major League Baseball hitters in walks, recording 91 total walks in 2017. This was not an anomaly for Santana, either, as he has drawn at least 90 walks in each of his last 7 seasons. Another impressive quality to Santana is how rarely he grounds into double plays, which may come as a surprise to some given his lack of speed. In 2017 Santana grounded into just 11 double plays, which ranks him in the top 50 in all of Major League Baseball for the fewest amount of double plays hit into. His patience at the plate combined with his natural ability to drive the ball with power makes Santana a formidable addition to this young Phillies lineup.
The obvious question now is what happens to the Phillies’ biggest rising star, Rhys Hoskins, whom occupied the first base position for them last season. The most likely scenario is that Hoskins finds himself moving to the outfield, thus ensuring that the Phillies will maintain a healthy 1-2 punch of Santana and Hoskins for the middle of their lineup in 2018. This also allows Philadelphia to trade one of its extra outfielders, perhaps either Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams, for pitching help.
With the Miami Marlins heading for a disaster of a season, the Atlanta Braves still in the midst of a massive rebuild, and the New York Mets lacking consistency, the Phillies have begun to put themselves in position to jump back into contention in 2018. The Washington Nationals are still the team to beat in the National League East, but the puzzle pieces for the Phillies are starting to form a pretty nice picture for 2018 and beyond.