The Royals continued to be aggressive this off-season, signing former All-Star first baseman Carlos Santana to a two-year, $17.5 million deal. The move shows a new, fiscally aggressive side of the Royals that could help the rebuild. Let’s take a look at some of the reactions to the signing.
Here are the financial specifics.
The Royals were not the only suitor for Santana.
The Nationals were one of the teams that pursued Carlos Santana before he signed with the Royals on Tuesday, according to people with knowledge of Santana's free agency. Santana ultimately landed a two-year, $17.5 million deal with KC.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 9, 2020
Dayton Moore is optimistic about the lineup, writes Lynn Worthy.
“You need that impact professional hitter in the lineup,” Moore said, “and when you start blending him in with Whit (Merrifield), (Adalberto) Mondesi and Salvador (Perez) and (Jorge) Soler and (Hunter) Dozier, and you put all those guys together and we feel good about where (Franchy) Cordero is right now. He’s playing winter ball. Our reports have been very good on him. We believe Nicky Lopez is going to continue to be a lot better.
“But it’s a pretty, pretty healthy middle of the order with Carlos Santana and Salvador Perez and Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier. Those guys can hurt you. And so we feel good about that group.”
The Royals are not concerned about Santana’s dip in performance this year.
“It’s obviously a shortened season,” Moore said of Santana’s 2020 statistics. “The on-base skill was still very good. The hard-hit was down a little bit, but there was still enough data there for our research and develop staff to feel comfortable going forward with the projections. Our scouting judgment was very strong on him. He was at the top of the list of the bats that we were looking to acquire.”
Optimism for Santana is the numbers on fastballs look like they should have been better with an xBA of .288 and xSLG of .558 compared to .233 and .438.— David Lesky (@DBLesky) December 8, 2020
Pessimism is that he crushed off-speed stuff and handled breaking balls just fine in 2019 and was eaten alive by them in 2020.
Alec Lewis also writes why the Royals think Santana still has something left in the tank.
For one, Santana’s batting average on balls in play (.212) was much lower than the league average and lower than his career .266 BABIP. Digging deeper, even though Santana’s hard-hit rate and average exit velocity fell in 2020, he did hit 8.5 percent of balls solid in 2020 — the most of his career. And then there’s the Royals’ knowledge of Santana’s offseason work. Royals assistant general manager Rene Francisco signed Santana out of the Dominican Republic; the relationship not only helped the signing happen but it also gave the Royals confidence in Santana’s trajectory.
“(We know) his commitment level to baseball, and to his family, and to how he lives his life,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of reason to feel very good about the next four to five years of his career.”
Dayton Moore wanted to take advantage of a slow market.
Asked Royals GM Dayton Moore about the club's aggressiveness this offseason. Here was his response: pic.twitter.com/IdA8Goo8Un— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) December 8, 2020
The Royals also had some familiarity with Santana.
Carlos Santana is coming somewhat full circle with the Royals. KC assistant GM René Francisco signed Santana as the Dodgers’ director of international operations in 2004. Santana, then 17, was a 3B who later converted to catcher. He is now 34, and wants to play until he is 40.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 8, 2020
The signing will move Hunter Dozier across the diamond, writes Jeffrey Flanagan.
The immediate domino effect of Santana’s signing is that Hunter Dozier, who started last season in right field and then switched to first base, will move to third base in 2021. Dozier started his career with the Royals at third.
“Right now, Hunter is obviously going to play some third and outfield,” Moore said. “There will be times when Hunter plays some first base as well. We’ll continue to utilize Hunter’s versatility. He is such a team player, and he’s extremely athletic and willing to move around the diamond.”
If you were to look at the 2021 projections, he’s viewed as being 13% above average — not out of the question, since he was 35% above average as recently as 2019 — and that also gives Kansas City a little flexibility by allowing Hunter Dozier to play more third base and the outfield.
Santana won’t make this team a playoff team, but not every move has to. It makes them better, more competitive, at a reasonable price. Hard to argue with that.
Ben Clemens at Fangraphs is still dubious this moves the needle much for the Royals.
That’s all well and good, but does signing Santana mean the Royals are likely to make the playoffs? To be blunt: no. It certainly makes them better, but the AL Central will have four solid teams next year counting Kansas City, and they’re still behind Cleveland, the third-best squad in the division, by a fair margin — 10 WAR, if you look at our Depth Charts projections.
But mean projections and WAR forecasts aren’t destiny. LaPlace’s demon doesn’t exist, and if it did, society would presumably use it for something more useful than projecting baseball players’ future. Hitters get better and worse all the time, in ways both predictable and unpredictable. As Kiley McDaniel noted recently, pitchers don’t develop linearly; the Royals have a pile of young starters, and you never know when Kris Bubic or Brady Singer might ace-ify himself overnight.
Frankly, that might not be enough.
Kevin O’Brien at Royals Reporter thinks the signing shows action is matching the rhetoric from the front office.
The Royals aren’t settling for one-year lottery tickets on guys like Billy Hamilton, Chris Owings, or Franco like in the past. Yes, Minor, Taylor, and Santana had rough 2020 seasons, but they showed incredible aptitude as players as recently as 2019. The Royals wouldn’t have gotten players of that caliber the past few off-seasons, which goes to show not only how serious Sherman, Moore, Matheny, and the Royals are when it comes to winning, but how the view of the organization has changed from the outside as well.
Players want to come to Kansas City.
Players believe they can win in Kansas City.
What does this mean for the Royals’ chances of contention?
The Royals win projection over at FanGraphs is now at 78.9. Still a few affordable free agents out there that could get that projection over 80 wins.— Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner) December 8, 2020
Rany likes the change in direction.
In 2020, Carlos Santana led the AL in walks drawn. From 2011 to 2019, he drew 88+ walks every season.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 8, 2020
The Royals have not had a player draw 88 walks in a season this century.
This might be the most un-Royal transaction of the Dayton Moore Era. And I am *here* for it. https://t.co/gknWHzzJME
Even writer Joe Sheehan is cautiously optimistic.
I'm going to end up talking myself into the #Royals as a wild card next year, aren't I?— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) December 8, 2020
Fans were certainly excited.
That is EXACTLY the guy I hoped they would sign when they let Franco walk, but didn't really think they would.— Ed Bartel (@EdBartel) December 8, 2020
I'm so pumped for this signing! I didn't think it was realistic! The @Royals clearly having the best offseason so far!— Keegan Russell (@keeganator_11) December 8, 2020
As for Carlos, he seems glad to be here.
Newest #Royals 1st Baseman Carlos Santana (via translator Rene Francisco): "I'm indebted to Kansas City."— Harold R. Kuntz (@HaroldRKuntz3) December 9, 2020
And he looks goooood in blue.
Looks like 'Los likes that hat. pic.twitter.com/4cRxorx88Y— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) December 9, 2020
You can follow Carlos Santana on Instagram at @slamtana_41. Welcome to Kansas City, Carlos!
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