Royals add much needed bat in Santana


Tony Dejak

Carlos Santana points towards the sky after hitting a home run in a game against the Chicago White Sox. Santana signed with the Royals on Dec. 8 and will be a desperately-needed power bat in their lineup.

Alex Burbidge, Editor-in-chief

The Kansas City Royals have continued to make significant moves during the offseason, as on Dec. 8 it was officially announced that the club had signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a two-year deal worth $17.5 million.

The Santana signing is the third Major League deal the Royals have made with a free agent in an offseason barely a month old, coming less than two weeks after signing pitcher Mike Minor and outfielder Michael A. Taylor. It is an interesting move to say the least, as Santana is slated to be the starting first baseman for a team that experimented with a platoon of Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom for the past two seasons; both will now be battling for a backup utility spot, with the loser likely to be designated for assignment or flat out released.

Santana, a lifetime .248 hitter, spent ten of his first 11 Major League seasons with the division rival Cleveland Indians, and did much of his best work against the Royals, hitting 31 career home runs against them with a .953 on-base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS); in fact, he is the active career leader for home runs hit at Kauffman Stadium by a player who has not played for the Royals. He very well could be the middle-of-the-order bat that Dayton Moore, general manager, said that he was looking to acquire earlier in the offseason.

His style of play is much different than most of the Royals’ hitters in that he isn’t a free swinger and will take his share of walks; his league-leading 47 walks in 2020 was more than the Royals’ top walker, Hunter Dozier, by 20. Santana will compliment a lineup featuring anti-walk machines such as shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and catcher Salvador Perez wonderfully, and can make the lineup much less top-heavy by batting in front of designated hitter Jorge Soler. His career home run total of 240 is more than any other hitter that suited up for the Royals since Raul Ibanez and his 305 career home runs in 2014.

His 2019 campaign was hands-down his best, as he tied his career high in home runs with 34, was an All-Star for the first time in his career and hit a career-high .281 with a .911 OPS, which was also a career best. Additionally, he finished 16th in voting for the American League’s Most Valuable Player award and won the Silver Slugger award for the best hitting first baseman in the AL.

On the other hand, Santana is coming off of a career-worst year in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.199), on-base percentage (.349), slugging percentage (.350) and OPS (.699). It should be noted, however, that his .349 OBP was still better than all but one member of the Royals’ starting lineup. Nevertheless, Santana is also on the wrong side of 30, and will be playing in his age 35 season next year; yes, he is a veteran presence that is needed in a clubhouse that just saw longtime left fielder Alex Gordon retire, but if he puts up those kind of numbers in a full season, then he probably will be traded for cheap, just like in 2017 when Brandon Moss, designated hitter, put up very similar numbers and was shipped off to the Oakland A’s that offseason.

The Santana signing is an interesting one for sure, but it does show that, coupled with the signing of Minor, the Royals are ready to be competitive once again. Having been one of the best first basemen of the 2010s, one can only hope that he can continue his success in a Royals uniform and lead the team back to respectability.