Phillies: Was signing Carlos Santana a mistake?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 29: Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelphia Phillies misplays a ground ball for an error in the sixth inning during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on April 29, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Braves won 10-1. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 29: Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelphia Phillies misplays a ground ball for an error in the sixth inning during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on April 29, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Braves won 10-1. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

Carlos Santana signed a three-year deal worth $60 million this offseason to join the Phillies. Is the signing already proving to be a mistake?

We are 95 games into the 2018 season and, for the first time in a long time, your Philadelphia Phillies lead the division at the All-Star break.  They may only be 0.5 games ahead of second-place Atlanta, but this is a major improvement compared to recent years.  Rewind one season and the Phillies entered the break with the worst record in the majors.

The second half of the season is going to be extremely exciting (hopefully) while the Phils attempt to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011, when they won a franchise-record 102 games then lost in the NL Divisional round to the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2.  That season started the six-year epic collapse that we all had to endure.  Now, it appears that the Phillies are back and might be able to compete for World Series titles in the very near future.

To help kickstart their resurgence, Philadelphia signed former NL CY Young award winner Jake Arrieta to be their ace and Carlos Santana to be their slugger.  The plan hasn’t exactly worked to perfection, with Santana majorly struggling in April followed by Arrieta’s troubles in June.

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We can analyze Arrieta another day, but today we will take a look at Santana’s season.  Was signing the first baseman a mistake?  Or are his numbers not as bad as they seem?  That’s what Gabe Kapler thinks (via Courier-Post).  I’ll tell you what I think.  Maybe you’ll agree, maybe I’m an idiot.  That’s what makes opinion pieces great.

The beginning of the season was rough on Santana, to say the least.

In the months of March and April, he had a slash line of .153/.295/.276.  Those are putrid numbers.  Santana went 15-98 in that stretch and his on-base percentage remained below .300 despite earning 20 walks in those at-bats.  Suffice to say that Phillies fans were not encouraged by their newest first baseman.  The only encouraging part was that multiple media outlets, such as The Morning Call, reported that his slow start may have been the result of some bad luck.

When Santana’s numbers drastically increased in May, it looked as if the speculation of bad luck could be true.  His OPS increased from .571 in March and April to .966 in May, making him a more-than-viable option at the plate.  What helped boost that number is that Santana hit seven home runs along with seven doubles and one triple.  He also had an on-base percentage of .373 despite recording six fewer walks than the previous month.  The improvement was great to see from a fan’s perspective, as it looked like he might become an asset to a team that was finally ready to win.

Since the beginning of June, Santana’s numbers have tapered off a bit.  His slash line is .182/.359/.303 during that time period. He has been able to maintain an impressive on-base percentage due to, once again, the walks that he is drawing. Santana has 40 walks and just 26 hits in 175 plate appearances since June 1. Still, the batting average and especially the slugging percentage have been horrible once again.

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His ability to draw the walks at a historic rate has always been a strength, and this season is no different.  He ranks third in the major leagues in walks with 74, trailing only Bryce Harper (78) and Mike Trout (84).  Remember, those guys get walked intentionally.  A lot.  Santana does not.

On the season, Santana is hitting .209/.351/.396 with an OPS+ of 102.  All of the numbers, except for his on-base percentage, are well below his career averages over the last nine seasons.  There has probably been an adjustment moving from the AL to the NL and most likely there is some of the aforementioned bad luck occurring, so some of the numbers could be explained.

Carlos has never been a defensive ace, which was known when he signed with the Phillies.  That below-average defense showed up in the final game against the Marlins before the break on Sunday.

Santana forgot how many outs were in the inning and didn’t throw the ball to second for a possible double-play (via  This season, he has a dWAR of -0.8 to go along with seven errors, which ties his career-high for a single season.

Overall, Santana’s offensive numbers are concerning considering he is making $20 million per year through 2020.  Luckily, the Phillies have monopoly money.  These deals for both Arrieta and Santana do nothing to hamper the Phils in the future.  They will still be firmly in play to land Machado (possibly at the deadline) and Harper this offseason at whatever price point they would require.  Per Spotrac, Philadelphia is on the books for just $112 million this season in total payroll and sit 11 games above .500.  The payroll for next season, just $68 million.  That should make them an enticing destination for the big-name free agents.  The rebuild worked, folks.

What I would suggest for Gabe Kapler to do is drop Santana in the batting order, possibly to the 5 hole.  He can get on base, as he has always been able to do, but the hitting just hasn’t panned out so far.  That would allow him to continue drawing his walks and let the guys below him, such as Kingery and Franco, try to drive him in.  It just might work, but then again I’m not a major league manager for a reason.

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Was signing Santana a mistake? It is too early to tell, so it seems ludicrous to declare it now. If he is able to raise his batting average back toward his .246 career-average, then this will probably not be a conversation at all. Santana is no spring chicken anymore at 32 years old, but he isn’t washed out either. At this point, I think that we need to give him the whole season to make a real judgment on the signing. Who knows? He might light it up when, that’s right I said when the Phillies are in the postseason as the NL East champs.