Arriba Santana! Carlos Gets Extended

It was the John Hart way. Lock up your young, under team control star players to long term contracts by buying years of some of those arbitration and/or free agent years for financial security in the now. Hart was the first GM to make these moves in the early 90’s with the likes of Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga, and such. His successor, Mark Shapiro, attempted to do the same during his run as General Manager, giving deals like this to Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez, and the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

Now the man running the show in Cleveland, Chris Antonetti, has made his moves. After announcing last week’s two-year extension for Asdrubal Cabrera (signed through 2014), the Tribe today trumpeted the signing of their best and brightest young star, Catcher Carlos Santana, to a five-year, $21 million deal. All of this for a guy who just celebrated his 26th birthday on Monday.

“$21 million instead of a birthday card? That’s a good birthday, ” said Antonetti at yesterday’s press conference.

“This is the best birthday ever,” exclaimed a happy Santana who just cashed in years before he would be seeing a big payday.

I get what the Indians are doing. They see a guy who is a hitting machine who isn’t even close to scratching the surface of his potential yet, and a guy who when he hits arbitration, will be in for huge pay increases year to year. Yes, they already had him under their control through the guaranteed length of this new deal (2016), but the $21 million is a very manageable number when you consider how good Santana could be and the fact that under the new basic collective bargaining agreement, he could have become arbitration eligible after this season.

The deal breaks down like this for Santana:

$1 million signing bonus. $501,000 for 2012, $550,000 for 2013, $3.5 million for 2014, $6.0 million for 2015, $8.25 million for 2016, and a $12 million club option for 2017. The way the Indians see it – Santana is a stud whom they’d be glad to pay $12 million in that club option year if he is as good as we all think he is.

“When you combine his offense, and what he provides behind the plate with his defense and leadership potential, it leaves us with a cornerstone player not only for the present, but for the teams to come,” explained Antonetti.

If there was ever a bat the Indians should try to keep long term, it is Santana. He’s young, he’s a switch hitter, and he hits big at a non-premium position (catcher). If they choose to develop a young catcher down the road to replace him, Carlos can move to first base, where the Indians don’t currently have a long term answer anywhere in sight. DH Travis Hafner also comes off the books after 2012 and the DH role will be vacant, allowing Santana to take some of those at-bats if they Indians chose to go that route.

While we’re on the subject of “coming off the books,” the Indians will be free of Hafner’s $13 million, Sizemore’s $5 million, Derek Lowe’s $5 million, Casey Kotchman’s $3 million, and the renegotiated $2.5 million of the Roberto Hernandez deals after the season. I think it is safe to say that other than maybe Lowe (depending on performance), the Tribe wouldn’t be looking at bringing any of these guys back in 2013. That’s $30.5 million off the payroll in 2013. This gives them room to potentially look an extension for another young star, Justin Masterson, though it has been reported that the two sides are “far apart” in talks. Shin-Soo Choo, another guy the Indians would like to lock up, will be playing his way to free agency after the next two seasons, considering his agent is Scott Boras.

Back to Santana. In his first full year in the bigs, he hit 27 homers, 35 doubles, and drove in 79 runs, while walking 97 times and putting up an OPS of .808. He did this at the age of 25, coming off of a devastating knee injury a summer before, and flipping back and forth between the third and cleanup spots in a batting order. You can’t forget that that lineup was missing big guns Choo, Hafner, and Sizemore for big portions of the season. There were only four Major Leaguers in 2011 who hit at least 25 homers, 35 doubles, and 90 walks. Santana was one of them.

It is nice to know that the Indians will have an offensive centerpiece locked in at an affordable, club-friendly price, through 2017 should they choose.

Said team President and former GM Shapiro via Twitter: “Excited to get a multiyear deal done with Carlos that could keep him here through 2017. He’s an exciting middle-of-the-diamond run producer that we can build around.”

John Hart was smiling from somewhere in the MLB Network studios over this deal. This was his big idea that worked. It is still working 20 years later.

(photo via Chuck Crow/PD)

  • mgbode

    don’t discount re-signing Hafner.  100games @125 OPS+ for a team that struggles on offense has value.  Not $13mil in value, but perhaps $4-5mil. 

    Save Pronk!

  • mgbode

    obviously a good thing to get Santana locked up.  hopefully, Masterson is up next (not counting any chickens with Choo).

  • 216in614

    I don’t understand why everyone is calling this locked up? It’s 1 more year then if they didn’t offer him anything. Locked up is what the Tigers and Reds are doing. Or are we just talking locked up as in we don’t have to worry about paying him a boat load in arbitration???

    Not trying to be negative but if the Indians are giving him this deal while he is so young(there is some risk involved) I don’t see why they couldn’t get 2 years of his FA.

  • Markn95

    I’m, as big a Dolan critic as anyone but I have to give credit where it’s due.  Great move. 

  • The Reds “locked up” a 29-year-old. Santana will be 31 when his contract is up for extension. “Locked up” isn’t a universal positive. And while it’s one more year, it’s also a defined amount for the subsequent years rather than being unable to budget cost going forward; this move helps immensely for free agency, knowing what’s available and when rather than stringing together one-year deals with players like Kotchman and Hannahan.

  • Boomhauertjs

    If Choo keeps up his suckiness from most of last year and this year, he may change his mind about a long-term deal.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    They can’t score with him so I’d hate to see this offense without him.  Was a good move the contract is right in the Indians blue light special range.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    All the shots he’s taking in the batters box aren’t helping but I believe in Choo so hopefully he turns it around.  Other then Cabrera he’s their best player.  The Indians can’t afford to let him walk.

  • Garry_Owen

    But what if we can use that cash to sign another guy with a similar OPS+ that also happens to play a position?  That’s my dream.  While offense is clearly a problem for us, we also have huge issues with finding position players.  For a mid to low market team like Cleveland, I think locking up your DH is the last thing that you do.

    It pains me to take a divergent position, but I do so amicably. 

    Lose Pronk!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Definitely a good move… like it or not, this is how small-market baseball teams with low payrolls have to operate.  You get Santana in his prime for a good number of years and then you trade him for prospects in his last season because you can’t afford the huge contract that the Yankees will give him in free agency.  What’s even smarter, to me, is that the wear and tear of being a catcher probably won’t hit Santana until he’s 32 or 33, at which point he’ll be gone.  That’s kind of a morbid thought, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Shaponetti strongly considered that.  It may have been a consideration for V-Mart as well, so we’ll see how many games he plays in going forward.

  • mgbode

    Willingham got more than that in $$$ and years.  Hafner may very well offer us a 1year / $5mil contract option that gets us short-term offense at a decent price.

    and these comments would be awfully boring if we always agreed 🙂

  • mgbode

    I think this is also a good place to point out that the Tribe now will have Carlos Santana for 8 years of his MLB career if they choose to have it.

  • mgbode

    especially after the Grady/Hafner extensions, we might too.

    i’m just hoping he has such a great 2 years here that he completely prices himself out of the Tribe’s reach.  #shorttermhappiness

  • mgbode

    the Tigers had already all but taken Victor out of the catcher role last year anyway.    he still caught some games, but he was their DH and expected to be their DH this year.

    with how they are deploying their IF though, they may throw him out there at 2B and sign Hafner to DH for them.

  • Ritz

    And if he gets hurt like Hafner did everyone will deny thinking it was a good idea and say “I knew all along we shouldnt do this with a guy that hits .250!!”

  • Ritz

    Or they put Hafner as 1B and have the worst defensive infield of all time. Basically the opposite of the Tribe with Fryman, Omar, and Alomar.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Right, but I guess what I’m saying is that you can’t undo the knee damage from catching for so many years… so he’ll carry that with him even at 1B/DH.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well of course they will that’s the nature of the beast but I’ll hedge my bet and say it was a good move at the time.  It makes sense lets just hope Santana remains healthier then did Hafner.

  • mgbode

    fair enough.

  • mgbode

    so, are you proposing Fielder at 2B and Victor at SS to complete their IF?  maybe put Peralta in RF?

    would Austin Jackson just give up at that point?

  • Ritz

    Victor did start out in the minors at SS…

  • Pizzadevourer

    This Indians team is awful.  The bullpen stinks and our offense sucks.  Sure hope they start looking better than what they do now.

  • Natedawg86

    Pay it forward.  I think there are still players out there that realize a team did not have to give him a contract and elevate his pay right now, but did anyway so maybe that will factor into his decision on FA when the time comes.

  • AlexMathews

    The “teams to come” comment from Antonetti was a bit unsettling…it makes me think that if the Indians don’t contend this year, the entire roster will be gutted within the next 2 years to start over.