Scouting The Trade Market: Carlos Santana

Winter Meetings Day One Open Thread
Blue Jays claim Eli Whiteside off waivers
(Jason Miller/Getty)

The Yankees were dealt a rather significant blow late last week when Russell Martin agreed to a two-year contract with the Pirates. The free agent market is short on starting-caliber catchers and it’s not often those guys get traded either, so replacing Russ will be very difficult. Unfortunately there isn’t much internal help either.

It’s no secret the Indians are in a full-rebuild mode (again), dangling pretty much every useful player on their roster. One of their best players is one of the game’s top young catchers, 26-year-old Carlos Santana. Cleveland originally acquired him from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake trade four years ago, and he made his big league debut a roughly two years later. He just completed his second full big league season. Santana is an excellent young player as I’m sure you know, but let’s break down the specifics of his game.

The Pros

  • Santana hit .252/.365/.420 (120 wRC+) this year and is a career .247/.363/.443 (124 wRC+) hitter in over 1,400 plate appearances. He’s a switch-hitter as well, with a career 118 wRC+ as a left-handed batter and 138 as a righty.
  • In true Yankee fashion, Santana is a power and patience machine. He hit 27 homers a year ago and 45 total in his two full seasons (.193 ISO), second most among all catchers behind Mike Napoli. Santana also owns a stellar 15.4% walk rate (14.9% this year), and over the last two years it’s 14.8%. Only Jose Bautista, Joey Votto, Adam Dunn, and Carlos Pena have drawn free passes at a higher rate since 2011.
  • Despite all those walks and deep counts, Santana’s career strikeout rate is a touch better than league average at 18.0% (16.6% in 2012). His career 78.2% contact rate is basically league average as well, which is pretty good for a guy who works a lot of counts and sees a lot of breaking balls.
  • In addition to catcher, Santana also has over 80 career big league starts at first base and can play the position adequately. The Indians even stuck him in left field for a few innings during a blowout this year, but I wouldn’t get excited over that.
  • The Indians signed Santana to a five-year contract extension worth $21M earlier this year (covering 2012-2016), so a $4.2M average annual value for luxury tax purposes. The deal also includes a club option ($12M or $1.2M buyout) for 2017, so he’s not going to be a free agent anytime soon.

The Cons

  • Santana is not a great hitter for average because he hits a ton of infield pop-ups. More than 5.5% of his career balls in play are infield pop-ups, and while that might not sound like much, it’s the 25th highest rate in baseball over the last three years (min. 1,000 PA). Infield pop-ups are essentially an automatic out, hence his career .271 BABIP and mid-.200s average.
  • He’s not a great defensive catcher at all. Santana led the league in passed balls this year (ten) and is only league-average in terms of throwing out base-stealers (27%). He’s rated in the bottom five of recent pitching framing rankings and in the bottom quarter of 2012 catcher defense rankings.
  • Santana has only started 100+ games behind the plate once: 106 split between High-A and Double-A in 2008. He’s started 88 and 95 games behind the plate the last two years, though it’s important to note that he often plays first base (or DH, point is they don’t take his bat out of the lineup) when he’s not catching, so the Indians have used him behind the plate less frequently than a typical starting backstop.
  • Santana has suffered two major injuries in the last four years, though the torn knee ligaments in 2010 was the result of the collision at the plate. He also broke the hamate bone in his right wrist in 2009 while playing winter ball. A foul ball off the mask sent him to the 7-day concussion DL last year. Two of those injuries are fluky, but injuries are injuries.

If the Yankees wanted to swing a massive multi-player blockbuster to address most (or all) of their needs all at once, the Indians match up well as a trade partner. In addition to a catcher in Santana they could offer a right fielder (Shin-Soo Choo), a starting pitcher (Justin Masterson), a late-inning reliever (Chris Perez), a high-end infielder (Asdrubal Cabrera), and a low-end utility infielder (Mike Aviles or Jason Donald). Obviously it’s extremely unlikely the Yankees would acquire (or even look to acquire) all seven of those players at once, but the point is there’s potential to expand a deal.

Santana would fill several long-term needs for the Yankees. He’d obviously give them a replacement for Martin, but more importantly he would add power from the right side and another legitimate middle of the order bat to the lineup. With Nick Swisher gone and both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the middle of multi-year fades, finding another three- or four-hole type of hitter to complement Robinson Cano is more important than maybe the Yankees want to admit. There’s an awful lot to like about adding Santana to the Yankees, at least on the offensive side of the ball.

A player like this  — a proven above-average switch-hitter who can at least fake a premium position and is both signed dirt cheap long-term and is several years away from his 30th birthday — has substantial trade value. I’m not normally one to throw comps around, but Santana sure has a lot of Jorge Posada in him, no? Obviously he’s not nearly as accomplished as Posada, but a switch-hitting catcher with power and patience who kinda sucks behind the plate? Yep, that’s Jorge. I’m not sure if the Yankees have the pieces to land a player of Santana’s caliber via trade — the Indians are reportedly looking for young pitching and David Phelps & Ivan Nova duo ain’t gonna cut it — and there’s no indication that he’s even available, but with Cleveland shopping everyone it sure wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Winter Meetings Day One Open Thread
Blue Jays claim Eli Whiteside off waivers
  • september to unremember

    Hughes + Romine + PTBNL get it done?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Hughes is a year away from free agency. No.

      You have to hope they see something in guys like Turley and Marshall which we don’t and THEN dip into one of the single-A studs AND an MLB piece.

      Nova, Turley, Marshall, Heathcott/Williams? Not exactly endorsing doing that. Just thinking aloud.

      Of course, MTPS.

  • kevin w.

    I might be willing to package Sanchez with one of Mason/Heathcott and Phelps if we got Santana and Chris Perez back. That might be a trade that could work for both teams.

  • SamVa

    Hughes + Williams + Sanchez + Austin (+ a few fillers) get it done for Santana/Choo?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Holy god I would not do that.

      • G

        What about Phelps+Williams/Heathcott/Austin+Sanchez? I think I’d have to do it, the odds of Sanchez being what Santana is now aren’t fantastic, and we have a plethora of top outfield prospects. Couldn’t hurt to give up one.

        • Preston

          I’d probably pull the trigger on that. I’m not sure that’s what the Indians are looking for though, they need/want front end pitching. If Banuelos hadn’t gotten hurt, I think we could make a deal, maybe Campos or Hensley would spark their interest. I don’t know. Santana would cure a lot of our ills on offense.

          • Bo Knows

            You can’t trade players until they have at least one year with their the team that drafted them.

            • jjyank

              Not initially, but Hensley could be a PTBNL.

              • Gonzo

                Hensley can’t be a PTBNL yet. PTBNL has to be completed within 6 months unless that changed with the new CBA. He signed in July.

                • jjyank

                  Well then he could be a PTBNL next month? Close enough.

        • Robinson Tilapia



          • G

            I’m as big a fan of Sanchez as pretty much anyone, but Santana is one of the few guys I’d give him up for.

            • RetroRob

              Right. If the team is going to pick up a young catcher who is signed at a more-than-reasonable price for the next five years, then moving Sanchez as part of the package makes sense.

  • Gonzo

    Melky + IPK for Santana then sign Tim Reddings!

  • Oahoea

    If J.Johnson/Reyes/Buerhle/Buck/Bonifacio ~ Hecchavaria/Escobar/H. Alvarez/Marisnick/Nicolino…
    …then shouldnt
    Santana+Choo+Aviles ~ Phelps+Austin+G.Sanchez+Marshall+Joseph/Adam
    get you started on a serious deal?

    • Preston

      Yes, as long as we are also taking on around 150 million dollars in salary, then that’s a completely relevant comp.

      • Oahoea


  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Santana (his mannerisms and swing) reminds me so much of Cano at the plate. I like him in pinstripes at YS. I also like Jesus Montero in pinstripes at YS. Both would pepper the right field seats.

    • jjyank

      You like Montero in pinstripes? No way.

  • Joe B

    A trande for Santana would have to start with Sanchez, I’d imagine. Santana through 2017 would mitigate the Yankees’ need for Sanchez and he would probably fit Cleveland’s timetable pretty well.

    I have no idea who else would be in a potential trade but Sanchez is a decent piece to start discussing a trade around I think.

  • CS Yankee

    NYY get: Santana + Masterson
    Injens get: Nova + ManBan + Heathcott + Romine

    • Ethan

      No way the indians would do that.

    • G

      Substitute Sanchez for Romine and you might get them talking.

  • forensic

    Now that Whiteside is gone I guess he’s the next best option. Might as well give it a try. At least second place might still be available with the Blue Jays having sewn up the division now.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      I thought the Rays had 2nd sewn up. I think the Yankees are fighting with the Orioles for 3rd.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        The Yankees have been bumped to the AL Central.


    I seen way to many draft stocks drop in my life watching baseball and guys not pan out at all, and a teams prospect list completely change in a yrs time, to think its a bad idea to trade for a guy whos proven to be a solid to above avg ML player, with room for more still..

    Both Dellin Betances and Banuelos have taken huge stock drops, and Romine hasen’t taken the next step forward either.. I would definetly make a trade for Santana involving Heathcott, one of Phelps or Nova, and Banuelos… We have no idea if Banuelos will get back on track, and Heathcott is very injury prone, and Phelps is quality ML pitcher, but not something that should keep away from a guy like Santana, who again, might not of scratched the surface yet on his peak yrs…

    I see Santana as a 275ba 23hr 89-95RBI guy ove the next handful of seasons.. I love that hes a SH as well.. I might be really high on em, more then others, but i just really like the idea of Santana in pinstripes..

    I also would make a similar deal for Chase Headly(one or the other of course)…

    we have plenty of guys in the farm who got potential even if that deal went through.. Guys like David Adams, Montgomery, Mason Williams, we’d keep either nova or phelps, Brett Marshall, Vidal Nuno, Corban Joseph, Jose Campos, Gary Sanchez, Bichette Jr, Austin, Jr Murphy, and Betances is still a Wild Card..etc Thats just off top of my head..

    My point is, the cupboards aren’t bare if we made this deal.. I’d be heavily intrested in bringing over Carlos Santana.. Then if hes a HIT , u can possibly think about trading Sanchez and/or Romine and/or Murphy in down the line…

  • Vinnie G

    They don’t want Hughes..

    The players Cleveland would love would be Banuelos or Campos but because of injury I doubt they would trade for them. If you want an offensive minded cheap catcher then the prospects you give up are going to make you cringe. There’s a huge market for catchers and no one is available.

    For Choo & C. Santana it would look like Sanchez, Slade, Mason, Phelps, & Nova.

    Mike has the Indians ever said Santana is available or are we just speculating?

    • LarryM., Fl.

      Way too expensive. I would prefer Cervelli behind the plate at those prices.

  • Murderers’ Row Boat

    *Reads headline about Yanks trading for Carlos Santana*


    Why do some people still think the Yankees have the players to trade for guys like that? The Boss is gone, so is the Yankee way of trading every minor leaguer for some guy you hope would be good.

  • Slappy McWaterbug

    Here comes the deluge of shitty trade proposals.

    • Murderers’ Row Boat

      *Does best crazy sports talk caller impression*

      Yo, the Yanks suck, Cashman should save his job by trading Hughes, that Pineda drunk, and f*cking nunez to the (insert team name here) for (insert young superstar player here)!

      • Robinson Tilapia


        …I’ll hang up and listen, Tom, er, Rick.

  • Yank the Frank

    Not even mentioned that he is a great guitar player.

    • LarryM., Fl.

      I had his albums. Now I have his CD’s. I hope he’s not doing any PED’s as he did at Woodstock back in the day. I know you needed a little Ken Singleton.

      Santana sounds like Cervelli with way more power. Cervelli obviously is not held in high esteem by the Yanks or he would not have been in AAA traveling the Orient Express last season. So, the Yanks should be a little shy with his trade unless some pieces are included such as Mr. Cho.

      • G

        This comparison is mind boggling. Santana’s career walk rate (15.4%, career high was 20.2% in 2011) is nearly double Cervelli’s (8.0%, career high 10.4% in 2010). Santana’s career OBP is .030 higher, so it’s not just a power difference. On the defensive side, they both have deficiencies, but they aren’t even similar problems. Cervelli’s problems lie in terrible throwing (19.8% career CS), while Santana is league average to slightly above average there (27.1% career). They both allow more passed balls than you’d like, but that’s literally their only similarity. I don’t even know why I bothered to type this; the comparison is so terrible I don’t even think it warrants analysis. Santana is one of the game’s best young catchers, Cervelli is at best a higher end backup. This delusional similarity you see in them does not constitute a reason to avoid him.

        • dkidd

          i award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul

  • There’s the Door

    Cano, Granderson and Romine for Choo, Santana and Cabrera.

    • G

      Not even close. You want all three of those, let’s talk Phelps, Nova, Sanchez, Williams, Austin, a healthy Banuelos, and more…

      • There’s the Door

        You might be surprised. Indians need some gloss and need it now.

        • G

          Yes, I could very well be surprised and the price could be lower than I expect. However, your price is hysterical. A prospect who’s lost most of his shine and two guys with 1 year left under contract for a team trying to rebuild? Yeah, not even close. The Indians would call to have Cashman taken to the looney bin if he offered that. For each player we receive, I’d expect no less than one top 5 prospect and one controllable starting pitcher.

  • Richard Largely

    The Yankees are in desperate need of a catcher with right-handed power.

    Why don’t the Yankees trade for a young catcher with IMMENSE right-handed power? Why not a guy like Jesus Montero, who may not be great defensively, but can launch the ball out to right-field with relative ease?

    I think the Yankees should trade Michael Pineda to Seattle in exchange.


    • Mike Axisa

      Very creative and original. Can’t believe you’re the first person to think of this.