MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post.
Here are the latest Phillies rumors:
Carlos Santana’s name has come up on the rumor mill early in the offseason, but Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that the Phillies also have relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter “on the block.” Reports since the team’s late-season collapse have indicated that the Phillies will be open to trading just about any player other than Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins, so it’s only reasonable that they’d be open to moving either relatively high-priced setup man. Neshek is owed $7.75MM and has a $750K buyout on an option for the 2020 season, while Hunter is owed $9MM and will be a free agent next offseason.
Tonight marks the deadline for players to be added to their respective organizations’ 40-man rosters. Over the nine hours, there’ll be a flurry of moves, ranging from minor trades (like the one the Indians and Rays made yesterday), waiver claims and players being designated for assignment or outrighted. Each will be made to clear room for players who need protection from this year’s Rule 5 Draft. As a reminder, players who signed at 18 years of age or younger and have five professional seasons are eligible, as are players who signed at 19 or older and have four professional seasons under their belts.
Here’s a rundown of players who’ve been added to their respective 40-man rosters (which will be updated throughout the day)…
4:36pm: Eovaldi has received interest from “everybody and their mother,” a source tells Rob Bradford of WEEI. However, “truly serious suitors” won’t begin to stand out until after Thanksgiving, Bradford hears. The Yankees are among those who will at least consider Eovaldi, per Bradford.
8:59am: Free-agent starter Nathan Eovaldi has drawn considerable interest on the open market, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who writes that the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, Angels, White Sox, Blue Jays and Giants join the previously reported Red Sox and Padres as early suitors for the right-hander. More teams may join the fray, Cafardo adds.
Although Eovaldi is a two-time Tommy John surgery recipient who only threw 111 regular-season innings in 2018, the soon-to-be 29-year-old still managed to significantly boost his stock. Across 22 appearances (21 starts) divided between Tampa Bay and Boston, Eovaldi pitched to a solid 3.81 ERA/3.60 FIP with 8.19 K/9, 1.62 BB/9 and a 45.6 percent groundball rate. Among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings, Eovaldi finished third in both average fastball velocity (97.4 mph) and infield fly percentage (15.7), tied for sixth in BB/9, and 12th in K/BB ratio (5.05). He also yielded a paltry .284 expected weighted on-base average, an even more impressive figure than the .293 real wOBA hitters registered against him.
After posting those strong numbers during the regular season, Eovaldi proved capable of shining on the game’s biggest stage for the Red Sox, who couldn’t have asked for more when they acquired him in July. Eovaldi surrendered just four earned runs in 22 1/3 postseason innings, helping the Red Sox vanquish the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers en route to a World Series title. The success Eovaldi enjoyed in October surely helped his stock heading toward the open market, where MLBTR predicts he’ll land a four-year, $60MM guarantee.
A lucrative payday for Eovaldi this offseason may have been unthinkable at this time last year, when he was still recovering from the 2016 Tommy John surgery he underwent as a Yankee. However, Eovaldi now has a clean bill of health. Dr. Christopher Ahmad, who performed Eovaldi’s most recent surgery, gave his right arm a ringing endorsement Friday, telling Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston: “To me, he’s over Tommy John surgery and he’s over revision Tommy John surgery. And I would consider him in the same category of somebody who has a healthy arm, and whatever worry I have about that player, I have the same or less for Nate.”
Adding to Eovaldi’s appeal, he doesn’t come with a qualifying offer attached, which isn’t the case with either Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel – the only starters MLBTR projects to sign bigger contracts. Of course, Eovaldi’s resume isn’t on the level of theirs. While Corbin and Keuchel have offered superstar-caliber production at times, Eovaldi has generally performed like a mid- to back-end starter. Also a former Dodger and Marlin, Eovaldi owns a 4.16 ERA/3.82 FIP with 6.78 K/9, 2.74 BB/9 and a 46.8 percent grounder rate over 850 innings, and he hasn’t exceeded 125 frames in a season since 2015. There are certainly some red flags with Eovaldi, then, yet it’s still unsurprising that teams are lining up for his services.
On several occasions over the past decade, the Phillies have shown a willingness to spend among the league’s elite. However, because the Phillies were recently amid a full-fledged rebuild, the big-market club took major steps backward in the spending department. Last year, with Philadelphia aiming to make a sizable leap in the standings, the team began with a modest $95MM-plus in commitments. Two expensive signings from last offseason – right-hander Jake Arrieta (three years, $75MM) and first baseman Carlos Santana (three years, $60MM) – easily served as the Phillies’ priciest players in 2018, and the duo did help the team make legitimate progress. The Phillies notched their best record since 2012 (80-82), totaling 14 more wins than they amassed in 2017, but they finished under .500 for the sixth consecutive season and extended their playoff drought to seven years.
Santana is now on the block, though his potential exit isn’t a sign that the Phillies are looking to cut costs. Quite the contrary, actually, as owner John Middleton has publicly declared that the Phillies won’t be bashful when it comes to doling out money. In fact, while discussing the Phillies’ offseason plans on Friday, Middleton proclaimed that “we’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it. We just prefer not to be completely stupid.”
Even before Middleton made it known that Philadelphia’s looking to go big-game hunting, expectations were that the franchise would spend aggressively this winter. After all, the open market now features two of the most enticing free agents ever in outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado. Combining the Phillies’ spending capabilities with the lack of guaranteed money on their books beyond 2020, pursuits of both Harper and Machado have seemed like foregone conclusions. Both players stand a strong chance of surpassing the richest contract in baseball history – the 13-year, $325MM extension outfielder Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Marlins in 2014 – and the Phillies are among the teams truly capable of spending that type of cash. What’s more, if any one organization is going to sign both Harper and Machado, the Phillies are on a very short list of realistic possibilities.
The need for Harper, Machado or both in Philadelphia is obvious, as either player would clearly boost a position player group which ranked 22nd in runs and 23rd in fWAR in 2018. The Phillies’ 48 hitters accounted for 12.4 fWAR, while Machado (6.2) and Harper (3.5) combined for 9.7 by themselves. The two 26-year-olds have been among the game’s most feared hitters throughout their decorated careers, though Machado has also provided plenty of value as a third baseman. The former Oriole and Dodger would do the same in Philadelphia, which got so-so production at the hot corner from Maikel Franco, current free agent Asdrubal Cabrera and J.P. Crawford, among others, in 2018. Franco’s now penciled in as the Phillies’ 2019 starter at third, but that spot’s ripe for an upgrade.
Philadelphia is seemingly even worse off at shortstop, Machado’s preferred position and where he spent the majority of last season. Machado didn’t have a banner year defensively, but he did place first among shortstops in wRC+ (141) and second in both home runs (38) and fWAR. The Phillies, on the other hand, received a microscopic 0.7 fWAR from shortstops Scott Kingery, Crawford, Cabrera and Pedro Florimon, and their combined wRC+ (74) was barely more than half of Machado’s.
Fortunately for the Phillies, their 2018 outfield wasn’t as toothless as the left side of their infield. That doesn’t mean it’s an area of strength, however. Aside from slugger Rhys Hoskins, who overcame horrific defense to log a respectable fWAR (2.9), the Phillies got mediocre or worse overall production from outfield regulars Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr. Going forward, Hoskins may shift to first base, which explains the team’s willingness to trade Santana and could increase the need for Harper or another high-end outfielder. Harper, like Hoskins, had a year to forget in the field. Defensive ineptitude has hardly been the norm for Harper since he debuted in 2012, though, and he made up for it to an extent by notching another quality year at the plate.
Signing Harper would improve the Phillies’ near-term chances of returning to contention, and there’s an added bonus: Landing him would be a blow to the division-rival Nationals, Harper’s only team to date. The Nats, the reigning NL East champion Braves and the Mets will each push for supremacy in the division next season, but the Phillies could wind up as the favorites if general manager Matt Klentak uses Middleton’s money effectively this winter. While there are plenty of avenues Klentak could explore that don’t involve Harper or Machado, speculation about those two heading to Philadelphia will persist until they officially come off the market.
Free agent lefty Patrick Corbin is arguably the top hurler on the market this offseason. The former Diamondback timed his ascension to dominance perfectly last season, posting career bests in strikeout rate (11.07 K/9), HR/9 (0.68), FIP (2.47), xFIP (2.61), ERA (3.15), fWAR (6.3) and games started (33) in a pivotal walk year for the 29-year-old. If not for the staggering wire-to-wire performance of Mets righty Jacob deGrom, Corbin’s defense-independent pitching marks would have paced the Senior Circuit, besting even the perennial virtuosity of two-time defending Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer of the Nationals. In a free agent class replete with everything but top-end arms, Corbin has positioned himself squarely at the top: as our own Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams, and Jeff Todd see it, the hurler is the premier available starting pitcher, set perhaps to command a deal in excess of $125MM over multiple seasons.
Signs of caution, however, do mark the landscape. Though Corbin has fewer innings under his belt than most starters his age, the limited output came with a price – a Tommy John surgery following a breakout 2013 campaign knocked out all of the following season, plus half of the next, and a hopeful rebound in 2016 was derailed by shaky command and a dangerous propensity for giving up the gopher ball. Corbin also relies heavily on a wipeout slider that ranked as the league’s very best in 2018: after a lessened reliance on the pitch in the two-year aftermath of the surgery, the lefty has again ramped up its use, throwing it a shocking 41.3% of the time in 2018, the second-highest among all starting pitchers in baseball last year. The pitch, of course, is renowned for the stress it places on the thrower’s elbow, and has long been circumstantially linked to the UCL tear that precipitates Tommy John.
There’s also the body of work. Never a top prospect, Corbin seemed, after nearly 750 IP at the major-league level following the 2017 season, to have settled comfortably in a place quite near his long-ago projected role: Baseball America reports in 2010 and 2011 pegged him as a “number 3 or four” and “number four” starter, respectively, and the lefty’s minor league performance did little to discredit that view. Acquired from the Angels in a 2010 deadline deal that sent Dan Haren to Los Angeles, Corbin was a secondary piece in the return headlined by former top prospect Tyler Skaggs. The slider-slinging lefty did offer a quality 2013 season, posting an ERA/FIP/xFIP all between 3.40 and 3.50, but the performance coincided with a near all-time offensive low across the league – his park- and league-adjusted xFIP that year, after all, was just eight percent better than league average.
There were more stumbles to follow. A partial-year renaissance in 2015 was followed, in the middle of the next season, by a demotion to the bullpen; despite a career-high 53% ground-ball rate, Corbin’s walk rate ballooned to near four per nine, and he was too often bit by the long ball. Heavier slider use ushered in another rebound in 2017, but shades of last year’s dominance were still scarce: at the conclusion of that season, Patrick Corbin had, in 745 innings pitched, vindicated the scouts’ reports, offering up a perfectly harmonious 97 ERA-/97 FIP-, three percent better than the league average. ZiPS projected to hurler to be slightly better in the 2018 season, pegging him for a 94 ERA-/95 FIP- in the newly-humidor-scarred Chase Field.
So what, then, will teams make of the innings-eater-turned-ace in the new-look pitching environment? Will heavier bullpen dependence suppress the value of starting pitchers across the board? Will teams hold his mostly-middling ways against him, dismissing the recent ascension as outlier? Will the slider-heavy profile give them pause? Or will they double down, certain they’re acquiring a staff-leading ace far into the next decade? And, most notably for this piece, which teams seem mostly likely to fall into the category of the latter?
The Yankees, unsurprisingly, may be his top suitor. Corbin, who was raised outside Syracuse, NY, grew up a Yankee fan: “It would definitely be great to play there,’’ he told Bob Nightengale of the USA Today earlier this year. “I grew up a Yankee fan. My whole family are Yankee fans. My mom, my dad, my grandpa, everybody. Really, every generation of my family has been Yankee fans. Living up in Syracuse, everybody’s a Yankee fan. Not too many Mets fans up there.’’ The Bombers, who recently re-signed C.C. Sabathia for one final year, still face questions in the rotation’s back half, where a disappointing 2018 performance from Sonny Gray has left him squarely on the the block. The fit between the storied franchise and New York native seems an ideal one, especially in a park that rewards left-handed power like few others – Corbin, for his career, has been death on lefties, striking out nearly 31% of them and allowing just 20 total HR, good for a minuscule 2.54 xFIP against. The Yanks, who last year failed to eclipse the luxury-tax threshold for the first time in 15 seasons, seem primed and ready to make their periodic splash, but whether or not a free agent hurler is foremost in their efforts remains to be seen.
Next in line may be the Phillies, whose team ownership has made no attempt to hide its fervent pursuit of the market’s top assets, with principal owner John Middleton noting that the club could be “a little bit stupid about it.” After a systematic payroll reduction over the last few seasons, the Phillies finally re-announced their presence as a major offseason player with last year’s signing of Jake Arrieta, and again seem ready to pounce in the more bountiful class of 2018-’19. The rotation, which in ’18 had one of the league’s widest ERA-FIP gaps, likely due in large measure to the shoddy left-side defense of Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, and Scott Kingery, is chock-full of controllable arms with significant upside, and posted sterling peripherals as a whole last season. Still, uncertainty hovers around the burgeoning careers of righties Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez, each of whom turned a second straight season of poor performance on the back of encouraging secondary stats, and Zach Eflin, who was downright dreadful in limited big-league action before 2018. With the club’s top pitching prospects at least a couple years away, and money to burn across the diamond, the Fightins may elect to prop up an area of strength as they enter a pivotal 2019.
The Braves could also be a major player here, what with the windfall they’ve received from increased attendance at their new Smyrna, GA, home, and question marks all across the rotation. After Mike Foltynewicz, the organization has little on which it can count next season – Kevin Gausman and Julio Teheran sprinted to the big leagues oozing promise, but have been mostly uneven since, and heralded rookie Sean Newcomb again battled the command issues that had so often plagued him in the minors. Touki Toussaint was a nice surprise, but he walked nearly seven men per nine in a brief MLB stint last season, and Calgary-born Mike Soroka spent much of the season’s second half on the shelf. The farm is brimming with starting pitching talent of all types, but none have asserted themselves as MLB-ready for 2019. There’s been little indication from GM Alex Anthopolous that the club is looking to make a major splash, but the up-and-coming Braves seem as good a fit as any for the 29-year-old Corbin, should the team decide to move in that direction.
The Astros, perhaps set to lose Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency, could also be a factor. Both Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are free-agents-to-be following the 2019 season, Lance McCullers Jr. just underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the ’19 season, and the club’s glut of upper-level starting pitching depth has dwindled in recent years. With GM Jeff Luhnow announcing that the club will move Collin McHugh back to the rotation, two spots are still in flux. Luhnow seemed cryptic when asked about a possible increase in the 2019 payroll, but with so many rotation question marks in the years to come, a top-level arm would seem an ideal fit for the 2017 champions.
The Nationals, who’ve seen a once-historic rotation dwindle to just Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and possible non-tender candidate Tanner Roark, plus a series of who-knows and could-bes, also have the money and the need, should the club decide to pivot away from Bryce Harper. Still, with a whopping $245MM combined owed to Scherzer and Strasburg over the life of their deals, signing another high-priced starter would seem exceedingly unlikely.
Other teams, like the Dodgers, Twins, Giants, and Angels could be in play, to a lesser degree. Los Angeles has the money, of course, but has been loath to shell it out to a high-priced free agent from outside the organization under GM Andrew Friedman’s watch, and the club is already stocked with quality left-handed arms. The Twins have stripped their payroll to nearly nothing in recent years, but still have a bevy of intriguing rotation options and numerous holes on the offensive side. The Giants, of course, had the league’s highest payroll last season, but still owe over $120MM combined to Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, and don’t figure to be players in the offseason starting pitching market. The Angels, devoid now of anything resembling a top-end arm after Shohei Ohtani’s Tommy John surgery, could be a background lurker, though the club is still saddled with Albert Pujols’ albatross for another three seasons and may find other needs more urgent.
Which team will be the one to pull the trigger?
To complete their staff, the Phillies announced, they’ll install Dave Lundquist as assistant pitching coach. He was most recently the organization’s Triple-A pitching coach, so this was a natural profession. The former big leaguer has worked his way up the chain in the Philadelphia organization since landing there in 2008.
The Phillies entered the winter widely tabbed as the most obvious aggressor on the free-agent market. It has been known for years, after all, that the organization was stripping its payroll and building its prospect base in hopes of launching back into a powerhouse.
Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Philadelphia owner John Middleton was so willing to acknowledge the obvious. But he did so, with unusual candor, in an interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. As Middleton put it:
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it. We just prefer not to be completely stupid.”
Whether those surprisingly forthcoming words portend a true spending bonanza isn’t quite clear. But they surely suggest that the Phillies aren’t afraid of a bidding war and are open — willing, even — to go a bit outside their comfort zone to win one, at least for the right player.
This long-anticipated free-agent class may not quite have arrived with the expected hype, but it’s still laden with opportunities. And the Phils have both the need and the means to chase the market’s biggest names: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, of course, but also perhaps quality players such as Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, and Yasmani Grandal.
Click here for a detailed analysis of the Phillies’ payroll availability.
As Middleton rightly assesses, the Phillies clearly have “lots of ways to go to improve” a roster that has some valuable assets but relatively little in the way of established stars. That only makes things more interesting. Big-name acquisitions would likely also be followed by trades of current Philadelphia players, increasing the intrigue and ramping up the overall market entropy.
Clearly, it’s a high-stakes winter for a ballclub that sees an opportunity to make major strides. With Middleton expressing excitement at the prospect of unleashing the organization’s financial might, there’s every reason to believe that the Phillies will function as a market driver.
The Phillies have been primarily connected to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in free agency, but MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports that the Phils are also eyeing left-hander Patrick Corbin. Philadelphia has substantial payroll flexibility and a sense of urgency on the heels of a late 2018 collapse, but they’ll surely face quite a bit of competition in a pursuit of Corbin. The Yankees and Nationals, too, have shown early interest in Corbin.
The Diamondbacks are “aggressively shopping” righty Zack Greinke, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). With $95.5MM of salary still due over the next three years, he’s an expensive option. But the deal is at least cabined in length, and the Snakes have a good shot at getting out from under most of it. (Alternatively, the club might be able to pay down a larger portion and recoup some talent in a swap — or go in the other direction and include additional talent to make the whole contract go away.) It’s still largely unclear how things will shake out, but the fact that the Arizona organization is looking for a taker certainly makes a trade seem quite plausible.
Here’s the latest chatter on the rest of the market:
Nathan Eovaldi’s health is a major factor in his free agency. Though he’s only 28 years of age, the righty has undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries and required another elbow procedure before making it back to the mound in 2018. Of course, the results were quite promising, and he has now also received a strong endorsement from his surgeon today, as Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports. Dr. Christopher Ahmad says that, after conducting an extensive examination, he “would consider [Eovaldi] in the same category of somebody who has a healthy arm.” While any signing team will want to take a look for itself, it’s obviously quite a notable opinion to receive at the outset of free agency.
The Reds would surely love to land Eovaldi or another higher-end arm, though it’s still questionable whether they’ll dabble in that end of the market. What is clear, president of baseball operations Dick Williams said in a radio interview, is that the club hopes to find a pair of new pitchers — likely starters (via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Getting the right arms won’t just mean waiting to see what shakes loose at a cheap price, says Williams. Rather, the club intends “to be in front of these agents and these other teams talking more aggressively.” Sure enough, Jon Heyman of Fancred says the Reds have engaged with the Mariners (James Paxton), Indians (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco), and Yankees (Sonny Gray). With the Cinci org said to be hesitant to move its best assets, getting the desired arms could mean exploring some creative trades. That said, Williams shot down recent chatter surrounding purported Padres interest in star Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez. “Just to sort of nip that in the bud, I’ll tell you that rumor is unfounded,” said Williams.
Staying in the division, it’s worth looking back at a post we missed at the time. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported recently that the Phillies are quite likely to deal away third baseman Maikel Franco. Indeed, it seems there’s a reasonable match already under contemplation with the Padres. Of course as noted above, the Friars clearly are interested in looking around the rest of the market before pulling the trigger on a deal for Franco. The Phils are also said to be willing to discuss Cesar Hernandez, though he seems much less likely to be shipped out. It’ll be interesting to see how everything will unfold in Philadelphia, as the team is known to be chasing some of the biggest names on the market but also has some less consequential moves that it could contemplate pulling off first.
Earlier this week, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported via a rival executive that the Phillies are “shopping the hell” out of first baseman Carlos Santana. The Rhys Hoskins left field experiment went poorly this year, so it’s logical for GM Matt Klentak to attempt to trade the veteran Santana to allow Hoskins to move back to first base in 2019.
First, let’s take a look at what Santana is in this stage of his career. He’s a switch-hitting walk machine with modest power. He put up a 109 wRC+ for the Phillies this year, and 119 from May onward. Steamer projects a 119 mark on the whole for Santana next year. That’s a level he’s reached only once in the last four seasons, so it would be fair to question such optimism.
Though it’s an unscientific and more conservative guess, I’d expect 110-115. Certainly if you’re a rival GM and Santana is being shopped to you, you’d take my position on his expected offense. Santana has spent most of his time as a first baseman in recent years with the Phillies and Indians, and of course he’s an option at designated hitter as well.
Santana’s contract is a major factor in any potential trade. He’s owed $35MM over the next two years. Given Santana’s strong projection for next year, a case can be made that the Phillies shouldn’t need to pay his contract down significantly. However, I think in reality there are enough cheaper alternatives on the market that the Phillies will have to kick in at least $10MM, or else take back a contract or attach a prospect.
For a look at the other first basemen available this winter, check out Jeff Todd’s market snapshot from last month. The free agent market doesn’t offer any first baseman who qualifies as a definite regular, but the trade market could be robust. Paul Goldschmidt is obviously superior to Santana, while Justin Smoak is a fairly similar hitter who is earning only $8MM in 2019. Though better suited at DH, the Cardinals’ Jose Martinez is also in Santana’s class as a hitter. Martinez has yet to reach arbitration and can be controlled for four more years. I’m not convinced Jose Abreu and Brandon Belt will be on the move this winter. The trade market at first base could also feature a variety of more flawed options, such as Justin Bour (now on waivers), Eric Thames, or Wil Myers. The bottom line: the presence of Goldschmidt, Smoak, and perhaps Martinez could clog Santana’s market, as Goldy is an impact hitter and the others have more desirable contract situations.
There’s also the idea that a team with an established first baseman could acquire Santana to serve primarily as its designated hitter. The DH trade market could include Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Shin-Soo Choo, C.J. Cron, Matt Davidson, and Miguel Cabrera. As a hitter, only Cabrera is on Santana’s level, and he’s basically immovable due to his hefty contract. The free agent market does offer one option that is superior to Santana as a DH: Nelson Cruz. Cruz projects at a 132 wRC+ next year, and we expect him to sign for less than the $35MM owed to Santana. So if you’re looking to fill a DH spot, you would talk to Cruz’s agent before you’d worry about trading for Santana – unless the Phillies offer to pay down Santana’s contract significantly. You might also look at a player like Daniel Murphy, who carries a similar projection to Santana and should sign for less than $30MM.
If the Phillies are viewing Santana as mainly a contract dump, they might need to kick in $15MM to get him down to the equivalent of a two year, $20MM deal. If the commitment was reduced that far, Santana might start to rise up on teams’ lists above someone like Murphy. Here’s a look at the teams that could be a match for Santana this winter:
Twins: With Joe Mauer retiring and Logan Morrison reaching free agency, the Twins have an opening at first base and the need for a bat like Santana. They also have room in the payroll for most of his contract. It’s a reasonable match.
Astros: The Astros make a lot of sense for Santana. He’s a better hitter than their incumbent first baseman, Yuli Gurriel, and they’re open at DH with Evan Gattis reaching free agency. Still, it would be easier for the Astros or Twins to just sign Cruz, so the Phillies would have to make it worth their while.
Rays: Earlier this month, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote that the Rays “seek more of a feared overall hitter” than the arbitration eligible C.J. Cron. The Rays also have more payroll space than they’ve had in recent years, making Santana a pretty good fit. The Rays also have Jake Bauers at first base. 27-year-old Ji-Man Choi pitched in at DH this year and should have a job against right-handed pitching. The Rays are a sleeper pick for Santana, though like the Astros and Twins they’d need to be convinced he’s a better option than Cruz.
Rockies: After giving the bulk of first base time to Ian Desmond this year and getting replacement level production, the Rockies could seek an upgrade. GM Jeff Bridich spoke earlier this month of being “a little bit more focused on our offense this offseason as compared to last season,” and Santana could give a boost compared to Desmond or Ryan McMahon. However, the team’s payroll appears fairly tight and they may also address deficiencies at catcher and in a corner outfield spot.
Cardinals: The Cardinals deployed the aforementioned Jose Martinez as well as Matt Carpenter at first base this year. Carpenter could move to third base to accommodate a first base acquisition like Santana. However, replacing Martinez with Santana would upgrade the defense more than anything, since they are hitters of similar ability. I could see the Cards taking a look at Santana, but not as their first choice.
White Sox: The Sox appear likely to stick with Jose Abreu at first base, and could run out a Daniel Palka-Matt Davidson DH platoon. Palka is an option at an outfield corner, so the White Sox could feasibly add Santana as a primary DH who also chips in at first base. They’ve got plenty of payroll space as well.
Angels: The presence of both Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols make the Angels an unlikely match for Santana. Still, the Halos should have some at-bats available at first base and DH, as Ohtani and Pujols are hardly locks for 150 games apiece. And theoretically, Santana could try to fake it at third base as he did in 119 innings for the Phillies this year.
Rangers: With Shin-Soo Choo locked in at DH, the Rangers could acquire Santana as a replacement for first baseman Ronald Guzman. It might be too early to give up on the 24-year-old Guzman, and the Rangers have stronger needs on the pitching staff and at catcher. Still, if they’re simply looking to get better next year in any way possible, replacing Guzman with Santana should at least be on the table.
Marlins: This is an outside the box option, since most of the focus with the Marlins is on which veteran pieces they’ll sell off as their rebuild continues. The team does have a few internal options at first base for next year such as Peter O’Brien and Garrett Cooper. Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said a month ago, “We’re going to look at internal candidates, and we’re going to look at external candidates.” Why not Santana? For one thing, a trade can work well for a rebuilding club seeking a veteran boost, since free agents are typically reluctant to sign unless such a team overbids. Plus, the Marlins arguably have the payroll space to take on Santana’s entire contract, especially if they unload players like J.T. Realmuto, Dan Straily, and Derek Dietrich. In taking on all $35MM, the Marlins could demand that the Phillies throw in a quality prospect. It’s still a long shot scenario for the division-mates to match up on a Santana deal, however.
Orioles: The Orioles are stuck with Chris Davis through 2022, unless they’re willing to release him. They’ve also got Trumbo under contract for one more year. Adding Santana only makes sense in the same vein as the Marlins: take the entire contract, and get a quality veteran hitter plus a prospect.
Tigers: The Tigers could slot Miguel Cabrera in at DH and acquire Santana for first base. They’ve got the payroll space for Santana, at least compared to historical spending. But a bargain option makes more sense here unless the Phillies offer something enticing, putting the Tigers in the same group as fellow rebuilders like the Marlins and Orioles.
Red Sox: The Red Sox have first baseman Mitch Moreland under contract for $6.5MM for 2019 and J.D. Martinez locked in at DH. The most likely path is just bringing back Steve Pearce as Moreland’s right-handed hitting complement, but the Sox could theoretically acquire Santana and plug him in as the everyday first baseman. Doing so would likely make the team better, though a first base switch doesn’t appear to be an offseason priority. Plus, acquiring Santana would worsen Boston’s luxury tax penalty.
Yankees: The Yankees have Luke Voit and Greg Bird as first base options, and Giancarlo Stanton spending at least some of his time at DH. There’s no real point to replacing Voit with Santana, and the Yankees have bigger needs, so this match appears unlikely.
Royals: The Royals don’t have anyone at first base or DH that would preclude an acquisition of Santana. But with the team looking to cut payroll, trading for Santana hardly makes sense.