The Yankees are in a tough spot this offseason. The team could use an extra bat in the lineup, but there aren’t very many options out there. Plus, the roster has very few spots available. It’s not the perfect union, but if the price is right, Brian Cashman could do a lot worse than Carlos Santana.
How exactly does he fit on the Yankees? Well, as a switch-hitter with power, he would be an excellent addition to the confines of Yankee Stadium. Santana has averaged 24 home runs a season since 2011. With the short right porch just sitting there, he could easily tack on another 10 given his propensity to pull the ball.
What makes him a truly unique target, though, is his uncanny plate discipline. Over the course of his career, Santana has walked a whopping 15% against a 17% strikeout rate, which has been even lower than that in the last two season. That’s impressive for a power hitter.
The former Cleveland slugger hit .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs to give him a 117 wRC+ on the year. For him, that’s somewhat of a down year. At the age of 31, it could be a sign of things to come, or it might not be. Even an above-average hitter is valuable when you get his plate discipline to go along with it.
The biggest thing going against Santana is the limited ways the Yankees can deploy him. He’s accumulated 23 WAR over eight seasons, but given his low ratings in the field, it’s likely that a lot of his value has been eaten up by his defensive inefficiencies. As a former catcher moved to first base, he has been fine at his new position, but he’s already 31 and is probably best left in the DH spot.
Pigeonholing him there will likely cause him to look elsewhere, but it’s hard to promise him much with a healthy Greg Bird at the same position. Santana has remained durable since his move to first, reaching at least 150 games every year since the 2013 season. Bird, though, could probably use someone who can give him a break in the field to ensure nothing bad happens to his body this year. The two could switch off between first and DH.
Usually a deal with Santana wouldn’t make much sense, but the Yankees have run into some money. The contracts of Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia have finally ended, meaning that $46 million has been freed up by those two alone. The Yankees may be hoping to get under the luxury tax threshold, but there should still be plenty of money to go around.
It’s difficult to nail down exactly what kind of money Santana is in store for. He’s limited by his defensive ineptitude and his power numbers aren’t as flashy as others. Something similar to the four-year, $58 million deal Nelson Cruz signed with the Mariners in 2015 seems like a fair baseline. You would just have to account for inflation, Santana’s younger age, and Cruz’s superior home run numbers. Would maxing out at $60 million be fair? Maybe, but it’s a matter of whether it makes sense for this team right now. It could go either way.