Over the past two weeks, multiple reports have surfaced that the Phillies are one of a few teams checking in on free agent first baseman Carlos Santana of the Cleveland Indians. This news was initially puzzling with the emergence of rookie Rhys Hoskins, who from most accounts, seemed most likely to take over duties at first base in 2018. However, a potential signing of Santana seems to make sense for the Phillies for a few different reasons.
One of the best things about Santana is his ability to get on base. Over the last two seasons, the switch hitting Santana has walked 187 times. This is more than any other player on the Phillies in that given stretch. Santana is also considered a better defensive first baseman than what the Phillies have had in recent years.
According to the 2017 Bill James Handbook, Santana was good for 10 runs saved, which ranked in the top 5 for regular first baseman in 2017, while last years Phillies starter Tommy Joseph ranked dead last of qualified first baseman with a -10 Runs saved in 2018. Hoskins did not qualify for the regular category due to minimal playing time but he did finish with 0 Runs Saved while playing first base.
To keep Hoskins in the lineup, it would mean keeping him into left field where he made 29 of 50 starts last season. The Phillies would then have an odd man out situation involving Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, and Nick Williams after moving Hoskins to left field. The team could then look to dangle one of these young controllable outfielders in a deal to acquire top-end starting pitching.
With these above factors, Santana would seem to fit in with a young developing roster. According to spotrac.com, they estimate Santana receiving a contract of around 3 years and $18 million annual salary. This would again be ideal for the Phillies to get them through this phase of their rebuild because Santana would come off the books at age 34 and Hoskins can slide back to first base at age 28. On top of all of this, the Phillies could be in a position to receive top end pitching or high-level prospects back for any of their current outfielders.
Although interest has been shown, it remains to be seen if the Phillies would prefer to trade delaying Hoskins anchoring down the first base sooner rather than later, for a savvy veteran who can teach the young roster. A lot of pieces have to fall this offseason under the new manager Gabe Kapler. It’ll be interesting to see what move the Phillies make this offseason.