We are now less than a week from hearing the magical words baseball fans long to hear. In 6 days, Mariners pitchers and catchers will report to Peoria to kick off the 2020 season.
But one former Seattle Mariners is still out of work and there has been next to no buzz surrounding him all winter. Domingo Santana, whom the Mariners non-tendered in November of 2019, still hasn’t found a team.
Obviously, Santana is a flawed player, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that he didn’t find a new home quickly. However, Santana is just 27-year-olds, coming off a season in which he hit 21 home runs, posted a .253/.329/.441 slash line, and ran the bases well.
Defensively, he was historically bad. But historically speaking, it was a major outlier. So why hasn’t he found work? The Mariners may have not wanted to pay him the estimated $4 million arbitration salary, but he will surely cost less now. Seattle will be without Mitch Haniger for at least part of the season. So why no interest?
Well, the easy answer is his health. Remember, Santana missed most of the last 2 months with an elbow injury. It was later revealed that Santana had hurt the elbow a few weeks prior to his IL stint and while we don’t know the exact date of the injury, it would seem to coincide with a massive slump that basically ended the year for him.
Entering July 16th, in his first 94 games with the Mariners, Santana was .280/.346/.489 with 19 home runs and 6 steals. From July 17th until the end of the season, Santana hit just .127/.250/.215 in 27 games, including just 11 PAs in the month of September. Clearly, something wasn’t right with Santana.
Now, he remains unemployed as the 2020 season is just a week from getting started. So why isn’t Domingo Santana on a team, including the one he spent the 2019 season with who may actually have playing time to offer him?
Well, the easiest and perhaps most logical answer is that his elbow injury is severe enough that teams don’t believe he can handle a full season. But perhaps Santana just wasn’t a fit for Seattle. Perhaps their lack of interest has nothing to do with the elbow injury but is rather a decision to remove him from their clubhouse.
Now, let’s be clear, that is total speculation and doesn’t explain why the other 29 teams have shown almost no interest in Santana. It is hard to look at all circumstantial evidence and not conclude that Santana’s elbow is too big of a red flag for other teams to take the chance on.
But the fact that a 27-year-old, above-average bat with 2-years of club control remaining has produced no interest is surprising to say the least. Hopefully, Santana can find work. And if the Mariners decided to give a reunion a chance, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.