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MLB News: Indians’ Carlos Santana brought up idea of third base tryout

Catcher Carlos Santana brought up the idea of trying out as a third baseman to the Indians this offseason, reports The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto in his latest Sunday notebook.

Yan Gomes already has been named Cleveland’s everyday catcher for 2014. Pluto writes that Nick Swisher, who made 101 out of his 144 starts at first base in 2013 but played mostly right field for the New York Yankees, will remain as the team’s primary first baseman.

It was reported last weekend that Santana would be taking groundballs at third base this offseason to give competition to incumbent Lonnie Chisenhall. The 25-year-old has struggled in 203 career MLB games, batting just .244/.284/.411, which has the Indians looking for another right-handed bat to potentially add at third base.

Here’s what Pluto wrote about Santana wanted to try out at third:

The Indians were aware that Santana played a little third early in his minor league career. But they didn’t know if the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder could handle the position. The fact that Santana wants to try it has the Tribe far more excited than the front office wants to say publicly.

In 2013, the 27-year-old Santana made 81 starts at catcher, 47 at designated hitter and 24 at first base. As a DH or at first, his impressive hitting value is limited. He ranks as one of the best hitting catchers of all time with a .254/.367/.446 line. But his defense was a major issue, especially in comparison to the up-and-coming Gomes.

The Indians have versatile infielder Mike Aviles at their disposal as another back-up option, but little else on the farm. Cord Phelps was recently claimed by the Baltimore Orioles.

[Related: How crazy would it be for Indians to consider trading Michael Bourn?]

  • Kildawg

    Sounds like Santana wants to be a real team player. Besides, if Miggy can handle 3B, Santana should be able to. Does this mean that trading Chisenhall and/or Cabrera is in the works?

  • dwhit110

    I do not call a -1.5 WAR in the field “handling” 3rd base, which is what Cabrera provided last season.

  • davelb87

    I doubt Santana can hold down 3B defensively over the course of a 162-game season. But, if it’s possible for Indians to get 20 or so games against the toughest left-handed pitching it could be a major victory for the team.

    The 3B position is arguably the most talent-void in all of professional sports. As much as I would like to jettison Chisenhall and replace him with a new full-time 3B, there isn’t that much talent available to replace him. Having the option to get Lonnie out of the games you believe he will struggle most seems like the next best option.

  • Kildawg

    True, but he was put there. Bat overlooked the defense. As long as Santana hits he should be fine as an alternate at 3B, 1B, and C (obviously in a pinch since Gomes should have a regular backup). Flexibility is a good thing to have as the Indians proved last year.

  • Kildawg

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that 3B is talent-void, but rather that very few guys that play 3B regularly do not meet the prototypical model. Longoria and Beltre are the class of 3Bs; and there won’t be many guys like Larry Chipper Jones.

  • woofersus

    I’m sure Chis will still get every opportunity to win the job, and even if Santana isn’t horrible at 3rd I can’t imagine he’ll be good enough defensively to be a great option there everyday. If Chisenhall crashes and burns it will probably be Aviles there on most days. That said, it’s great that Santana wants to find a way to stay on the field, and if he can be even serviceable at 3rd it’ll add to both his and the team’s flexibility. We can assume he’ll get a similar number of starts at 1st as last year, and as the backup catcher he’ll probably get 60 starts or so behind the dish. (Gomes started 79 last year, but he became the primary guy by August) If he can add 20-25 starts at 3rd, he’ll only end up being the DH 40-45 times. Because he’s a switch hitter, that would allow Tito to line up the platoon bats even more effectively. (and it would better prepare them for a potential trade of Cabrera, which would put Aviles at SS every day)