I hope this is not good-bye

I must first state my bias. I have fully enjoyed Carlos Santana playing at least 143 games each of the last seven years. How he always seems to play better as the season goes along. How hard he worked through his rehabilitation to miss a minimal amount of games despite needing surgery on his knee.1 I have enjoyed how hard he has worked to learn catcher, third base, first base, and even the outfield.2 No matter where the team needed him to be, he was willing to push himself to become as good as he could. The culmination of this hard work being his achievement as being a finalist for the AL Gold Glove Award at first base- an award he deserves to win.

I have enjoyed Santana was an above average hitter every single one of those seasons without big fluctuations in his slash line. The Indians being able to pencil in a 120 OPS+ with 20 home runs, 80 RBIs, and a .360 OBP is a nearly unseen consistency in a game ruled by variance. Death, taxes, and Carlos Santana contributing at a near All-Star level with six of those seven years having a bWAR above 3.0.

I will continue to enjoy seeing his name pop up in trivia questions about franchise leaders of the Cleveland Indians for the rest of my life.

Watching the constant excellence unfold while seeing his wondrous personality off the field continue to shine through- especially as he shared his family life with us- has added to the merriment.

So, yes, I am a biased member of the Carlos Santana fan club. I might have even written him a sonnet once. Sorry though, no poetry this time. Ah, OK, you twisted my arm. How about a simple limerick:

There once was a ballplayer called Santana
Beloved more than a Minion’s banana
At the plate, he’s the boss
Celebrates with the sign of the cross
Hope he’s still on the team manana

Sigh. Oh, that’s right. Now that I ‘ve disclosed my bias towards enjoying having good baseball players with fabulous personalities on the Cleveland Indians, we have to get back to the business of the day. Santana is a free agent and the Tribe doesn’t have the best track record of re-signing productive players. The fact that Santana is the most important free agent the team has had in the past 15 years does not help matters. Memories of Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome each finding their riches elsewhere are all too fresh.

The good news is that because Santana is such a valuable player, he is worthy of receiving the qualifying offer (QO) from the team. The lone deterrent a small market team can use to depress the market value of the player once they reach free agency. Either Santana can accept the $17-18 million one-year contract, negotiate a new deal with the Indians, or any team that signs him will forfeit draft assets- and the Indians will obtain some.

The bad news is that because Santana is such a valuable player, there will be teams willing to sacrifice those needed assets in order to obtain his services, so the Indians cannot rely on Santana remaining a free agent for long. While some of the bigger market teams could withhold cash assets in order to more fully pursue the Harper-Machado class of 2018, it is doubtful that Santana would not find a team willing to place multiple years and a big number beside his name. The Toronto Blue Jays played this gambit with Edwin Encarnacion last offseason only to have the Tribe sign him away.

The question is if the Indians have the gumption to make the necessary moves in order to ensure the franchise has the best possibility of re-signing him. The first step might be the difficult emotional move of clearing salary by opting out of the Michael Brantley contract. Dr. Smooth has been a fantastic player in the past, but injuries have minimized his on field impact. There is no doubt Santana is more important for the 2018 fortunes of the ballclub.3 Opting out of the Boone Logan contract would clear the rest of the room- all fans can thank Tyler Olson having a break-out season for that possibility.

Whether the Tribe can find a way to keep him on the team in 2018 and beyond, I will forever be grateful for the seasons of joy he gave us. Thank you, God, for making Carlos Santana a Cleveland Indian.

  1. I did not enjoy how MLB did not care about that collision at the plate, yet changed the rule once it was Buster Posey’s knee that buckled. []
  2. Emergency outfield training to be able to get his bat into the lineup in the World Series, no less. []
  3. Perhaps the team can sign Brantley back to a more team-friendly contract. []