Philadelphia Phillies: Pursuit of Carlos Santana wouldn’t make sense

The Phils are rumored to be suitors for the 32-year-old—but would he fit?

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In what has to be one of the more odd free agent links so far this Hot Stove season, the Philadelphia Phillies were linked over the weekend to former Cleveland Indians first baseman/DH Carlos Santana.

MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted on Sunday that the Phils were in contention for Santana, who has spent his entire career in Cleveland, along with the Boston Red Sox. Santana would be an addition any team would love. He has power, plus on-base skills, and plays good defense at first. What would make this move questionable where the Phillies are concerned is roster fit.

For the Red Sox, pursuing Santana makes total sense. They have an opening at first base and can use Santana to DH on days he doesn’t field. What makes the Phillies so weird to see in connection to Santana is that they have neither.

Traffic jam

In fact, the Phillies already have a logjam at first base even without making more moves. Rookie sensation Rhys Hoskins is a natural first baseman, but played in left field for most of the time since his call-up while incumbent first baseman Tommy Joseph continued to man the prime sack.

Joseph has been pegged as trade bait ever since Hoskins’ historic breakout. He has good power—43 home runs in his first two seasons—and could slot in as a DH a team doesn’t want him to field (with a Rdrs of -10 at first last season, that’s a distinct possibility). He won’t be the centerpiece of any move, but he could be a nice piece to sweeten a pot.

Assuming Joseph isn’t a Phillie on Opening Day, Hoskins could play his natural position and allow the bat of Aaron Altherr back into the lineup full-time. Altherr was injured when Hoskins was promoted, but his bat is valuable and he is an above average outfielder as opposed to Hoskins, who only spent a few days in left at Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being promoted.

Signing Santana would give the Phillies the same issue. There really wouldn’t be a choice. Hoskins’ bat must be in the lineup, so Altherr would be relegated to a fourth outfielder and the team would sacrifice outfield defense for the sake of his power.

Something we don’t know?

The only way a move like this makes any sense is if Phillies GM Matt Klentak has a trade planned. If he were to flip Altherr or, less likely, outfielder Nick Williams for an upgrade elsewhere on the roster, then it would be more palatable to see Hoskins playing left again to make way for Santana.

Klentak has a glut of outfield talent at his disposal. Apart from Altherr, Williams, and Odubel Herrera at the major league level, the Phils are waiting on the development Dylan Cozens, Mickey Moniak, and 2017 first-rounder Adam Halsey, who has already started forcing his way up the minor league ladder. Not to be forgotten is Roman Quinn, who missed most of the year with injury but has the tools to reestablish himself as a potential piece of the future. That’s a lot of potential trade chips that could be used for, say, a starting pitcher, preferably one with a few years of team control left.

But unless a trade like that materializes, signing Santana makes no sense. It will cause a traffic jam at first and, if Hoskins is moved to the outfield, severely weaken the outfield defense, something that seems like it would be out of character for the sabermetrically-inclined Klentak and his new manager, the like-minded Gabe Kapler. He brings a lot of experience to the table after consecutive playoff appearances and a pennant with Cleveland but for a team like the Phillies, who still have at least a season to go before a playoff run can be considered realistic, that would seem wasted.

Unless the Phils’ front office has a surprise or two up their sleeves, Santana just doesn’t seem like a fit.

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