Could Carlos Santana be the answer to the Seattle Mariner’s first base need in 2018?
This off-season the Seattle Mariners have a few positional needs to address. With needs in center field, catcher, plus the rotation and bullpen depth, Jerry Dipoto certainly has his work ahead of him. I’d argue no position gap is more crucial for the 2018 Mariners as first base.
Our own Colby Patnode has run through a few options for the position vacancy. These players include, Eric Hosmer, Logan Morrison, and even Howie Kendrick. All these options could be a fit at varying degrees of salary for the 2018 Seattle Mariners.
Assuming Jerry Dipoto is willing to spend the type of money required to land Eric Hosmer, I’d argue Carlos Santana is a better fit for this roster.
For starters, Carlos Santana’s batting eye and approach at the plate is one that Jerry Dipoto has admitted to preferring in the past. During his career, Carlos Santana owns a walk to strike out ratio of 0.89 – clearly elite. For context, the league average BB/K the previous two seasons has been 0.39. Over the same time period Carlos Santana has been at 0.94 and 1.00 BB/K.
Eric Hosmer meanwhile has been at 0.63 & 0.43 the previous two seasons. While it’s true that Hosmer had the higher OBP last season, it was largely BABIP driven. A .351 BABIP is well above Hosmer’s career rate of .328. Carlos Santana meanwhile has been a consistent force in the OBP category. With a career .365 mark, a figure he’s been surrounding the previous handful of seasons, Santana is a steady performer.
The next area to consider is the power of each player. Eric Hosmer has reached 25 home runs the previous two seasons, even with a ground ball to fly ball (GB/FB) ratio north of 2.30 each season. Think about that, two ground balls for every fly ball. It’s certainly not the prototypical way of hitting for power. However; Hosmer has been able to somewhat make it work the previous two seasons. The fact that Hosmer has played in 158 and 162 games those years as well certainly helps the case.
Santana meanwhile has been somewhat up and down in the home run category. In 2016 Santana hit a career high 34 home runs in 158 games. This past season, Santana hit 23 home runs in 154 games played. Santana’s isolated slugging (ISO) was down from 2016 (.239) to 2017 (.196). However, it was still higher than Hosmer’s .167 & .179 in 2016 & 2017.
It’s early in the off-season and potential landing spots for each of these hitters could alter early projections. Simply using my weighted three-year average projection formula, we see that the two players project out pretty close in 2018:
Eric Hosmer: 669 PA | 29 2b | 23 HR | 93 R | 97 RBI | .297/.362/.469 | 0.172 ISO | 0.358 wOBA
Carlos Santana: 673 PA | 33 2b | 26 HR | 85 R | 83 RBI | .253/.363/.455 | .202 ISO | .355 wOBA
Hosmer is younger, meaning his contract will not only run longer, but also for slightly more money per season. I’d expect Santana to sign for 2-4 million less per season than Hosmer. I’d also expect Santana’s contract to be for 2-3 fewer years.
With the Mariners attempting to keep their contention window open as long as possible, even with the Astros clearly the best team in division, Santana’s somewhat shorter-term contract should appeal to the front office.
Santana is also a switch-hitter and could bat either second, ahead of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz & Kyle Seager, or bat sixth, directly behind Seager allowing someone like Mitch Haniger to stay in the two-hole.
Either way, if the Mariners go somewhat cheap at backup catcher and center field, as well as utilize a depth approach to their pitching staff, spending high dollars on Carlos Santana is a plan I can get behind this off-season.