The trade that the Yankees and Mariners made involving James Paxton and Justus Sheffield was concluded just a few weeks ago, but the Mariners have already completed two more major trades in the meantime. Seattle’s general manager Jerry Dipoto, committing to a full rebuild of the organization, has been quick to get his moves in before the free agent market could get going, and has been acquiring young talent to restock the club while they trend towards the bottom of the AL West.
Earlier this week, Dipoto swapped All-Star shortstop Jean Segura to the Phillies in exchange for former top prospect J.P. Crawford and first baseman Carlos Santana. Santana is an interesting acquisition,as he doesn’t fit with the Mariners’ competitive window and was mostly a salary dump by the Phillies. This makes him a potential candidate to get flipped in another trade, and that could bring the Yankees right back to the negotiating table.
Santana could be a quality option to fill what has been a long-standing hole in the Yankees lineup. Santana has been extremely consistent in his offensive production, always good for 20 homers and 80 RBI while walking at an equal or better rate than he strikes out. Santana hit a career-low .229 this past season, but his .352 OBP was right in line with his career average. Santana is also a switch-hitter, which would help to diversify the lineup a bit, and his defense is above average.
Santana is under contract for two more years, at about $20 million per. He carries a $17.5 million team option for 2021, but if the Yankees are ready to move on from him by then they could opt-out for just $500K. It would be expensive from a salary point to add Santana, but it would cover up the one glaring hole that has been persistent in the Yankees lineup and a safer bet than relying on Luke Voit’s magic to continue or Greg Bird to finally stay healthy. For what it’s worth, Santana’s 2019 Steamer projection includes a 122 wRC+, superior to both Voit (115) and Bird (103).
The two teams are also familiar with each other’s systems after negotiating the Paxton deal, so there should be some understanding regarding which prospects the Mariners are still interested in. Santana wouldn’t require a top-tier prospect like the Yankees had to pay in Sheffield last time. Given that he was essentially just salary dumped, the magnitude of prospect package Santana could command might just be determined by whether the Mariners include any money in a potential deal. There also isn’t a huge market for first baseman, and Paul Goldschmidt should take precedence over Santana on the trade front.
The Yankees still have other holes to fix on the roster, especially now that Patrick Corbin is not coming to the Bronx. But while most of their other issues can still be fixed on the free agent market, finding an upgrade at first will be near impossible without working a trade. The only other options are to roll the dice and let Voit and Bird compete for the spot, or seek a star position player who could swap positions to first. Perhaps the most natural path to improvement here is to hammer out a deal. Luckily, Dipoto’s phone line is always at the ready.