The Milwaukee Brewers have limited options on the free agent market for first base, but one option could be perfect.
Over the past decade, you’d be hard pressed to find a more consistent offensive presence at first base than Carlos Santana. Over the past decade, you’d also be hard pressed to find a less consistent first base situation than what the Milwaukee Brewers have.
Since Prince Fielder left in free agency following the 2011 season, the Brewers have not had the same player start the majority of games at first base two years in a row.
Part of that, obviously has been due to the players at first base not performing well for the Brewers and the team needed to move on. While adding Carlos Santana likely would not solve the long-term issues plaguing the position in Milwaukee, he would solve the production problem.
The switch-hitting Santana has a career .812 OPS and 120 OPS+ and a .248/.366/.446 slash line.
In 2020, Santana played in every game, and all of them at first base. Since 2013, Santana has played in at least 93% of all regular season games, making him a durable and reliable presence in the lineup.
Defensively, he posted a +5 Defensive Runs Saved and a .991 fielding percentage.
While his batting average dipped to .199 in 2020, his eye at the plate was still as sharp as ever, drawing a league-leading 47 walks while striking out just 43 times. He slugged eight home runs, drove in 30 runs, and had a .349 OBP.
Next year will be his age-35 season, and if he goes anywhere in free agency, it’ll likely be on a one year deal. Santana has played 10 of his 11 big league seasons with the Indians. He signed a big three year contract with the Phillies starting in 2018, but was traded back to Cleveland after a lackluster season in Philly.
The small market, close-knit, under-the-radar kind of team seems to appeal to Carlos Santana, and the Milwaukee Brewers are one of those teams.
While Cleveland loves Santana, they’re going to be slashing payroll this offseason, even more so than the Brewers. The Indians are reportedly planning to trade franchise superstar Francisco Lindor this offseason to save money. If they won’t pay to keep Lindor, the odds of them paying Santana to come back aren’t very good.
If Cleveland won’t bring him back, perhaps Milwaukee would be a great place for Santana to latch on to. He would be able to get regular playing time at first base, and Miller Park is a great park for hitters.
Santana’s previous contract paid him $20MM a season, which is something he won’t even get close to this offseason. He had a contract option for $17.5MM for 2021 that the Indians declined. Free agent salaries across the board are going to be way down and now that Santana is a few years older than when he signed his previous contract, his salary will continue to drop.
Santana is going to be the best first baseman on the free agent market and it’s possible he’ll be making less than $10MM next season. At that kind of depressed price, Santana could be a perfect fit for the Brewers. He would bring the thump, production, consistency, and durability the Brewers need at the position while at a discounted price.
If the Brewers are still able to make the payroll numbers work, Carlos Santana would be a great fit in Milwaukee.