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A look at the potential trade market for Carlos Santana

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Could the Royals look to move their slugger to make room for Nick Pratto?

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

This week, Dayton Moore addressed the media and said he would have to be “overwhelmed” to trade key contributors, which many assumed was a reference to Whit Merrifield, who is under club control for the next two seasons. But what about older, short-term players like Carlos Santana? The switch-hitter was brought in on a two-year deal to solidify first base and give the Royals a legitimate power source and plate discipline to their lineup.

He has done just that, hitting .236/.350/.409 with 17 home runs and a team-high 61 walks in 99 games, but at age 35, he’s not really part of the future of this franchise. With the breakthrough performance of Nick Pratto in the minors - he smashed his 18th home run of the season last night and is showing no signs of slowing down in Triple-A - the Royals conceivably have a replacement at first base knocking on the door, possibly ready by next season. Santana is owed $10.5 million next season - a fair sum for his production - but a rebuilding club should be giving opportunities to younger players and that money could be used to fill other needs (or the Royals could eat the money and possibly get a better prospect in return).

With Santana still producing, he could be an attractive player for contenders at the trade deadline. Which teams could be vying for his services?

The Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox make a lot of sense as a suitor for Santana. He fits their philosophy as a patient power hitter, and his veteran status and playoff experience could be valuable for a lineup that is still pretty young and inexperienced. Red Sox first basemen have the worst wRC+ and WAR in baseball, according to Fangraphs. Rookie Bobby Dalbec has been a bit of a disaster both offensively and defensively, and veteran utility man Marwin Gonzalez hasn’t hit at all this year. Top prospect Triston Casas won’t likely be ready until 2023, so Santana could serve as a stopgap until then. Anthony Rizzo could also interest them, but would likely require a higher prospect return, and Eric Hosmer probably doesn’t fit in their payroll with their desire to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

Who could the Royals get in return?

A pitcher like Jay Groome may be an interesting gamble - the former first-round pick and Top 100 prospect had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and has yet to really impress in the minors. But he has 75 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings in High-A ball this year, although with a high walk rate of 4.1 per-nine-innings and a 5.16 ERA. The 6’6’’ lefty can throw 96 mph and could be a project for the Royals minor league development program.

Second baseman Nick Yorke could also make for an interesting return as a hitter that can draw walks and avoid strikeouts. He hasn’t hit for much power yet, although some scouts feel he could be a 20 home run hitter eventually. Either of these players plus a lottery ticket might make for a useful return for Santana.

The New York Yankees

Slugger Luke Voit has missed action due to knee surgery and an oblique injury, and landed back on the Injured List a few weeks ago with more problems with his knees. Yankees first basemen have combined to hit just .200/.293/.327, the second-lowest OPS in the American League. They were thought to have a potent offense but have finished with the second-fewest runs scored in the league.

Santana would fit into Yankee Stadium well - had he played all his games there this year, he’d have hit 27 home runs, according to data from Baseball Savant. There is the question of what to do next year assuming Voit returns, but Santana could slot into DH with Giancarlo Stanton moving back into the field.

Who could the Royals get in return?

Well the Yankees just emptied out their farm system acquiring Joey Gallo from the Rangers, so there may not be much left. Outfielder Estevan Florial is an MLB-ready toolsy centerfielder who could have a good power/speed combo, although with some plate discipline issues. Or perhaps the Royals would prefer a higher upside prospect further away like outfielder Kevin Alcantara. They could also take a gamble on former Mizzou pitcher T.J. Sikkema, who has yet to pitch this year due to a lat injury.

The Yankees could also make the popular internet offer of outfielder Clint Frazier and/or infielder Miguel Andujar, two former hot prospects who have struggled in the big leagues.

The Milwaukee Brewers

The first place Brew Crew has already been pretty aggressive at the deadline, picking up infielder Eduardo Escobar this week, and having previously addressed their first base void by getting Rowdy Tellez earlier this month from the Blue Jays. But if they are looking for a more proven bat that will be around next year as well, they could turn to Santana. The Brewers seem to value plate discipline - they’re third in the league in walks - and Santana could provide that patience as opposed to the freer swinging Tellez.

Who could the Royals get in return?

Fangraphs ranks the Brewers as the #23 farm system in baseball, so there is not a ton of depth. The Royals got an All-Star centerfielder from the Brewers before, could they get another one by plucking Korry Howell from their system? Howell has great speed and an ability to draw walks, but there are some questions about whether his hit tool will translate to higher levels. I loved Zavier Warren in the draft last year, and while the Royals are already stock full of catchers, he’s versatile enough to move around the field like he did at Central Michigan.