Blue Jays: An under the radar option just became available
It’s well known how much the Blue Jays love versatility, and a top-tier, super-utility player just joined the free agent market, and could quietly be a great fit in Toronto.
We saw some surprises earlier this week ahead of the Dec 2nd deadline for teams to tender a contract to their arbitration eligible players. The Blue Jays elected to non-tender both Travis Shaw and A.J. Cole, and there were several other veterans around the league who met the same fate.
Most of them are now free agents for a reason, but there are a handful that caught my eye, and could contribute in a Blue Jays uniform in 2021. With a fresh look on Friday, there was another player that jumped off the page, and I hope the Blue Jays have at least checked in on the situation. Frankly, I’m really surprised that the Rangers decided to non-tender Danny Santana, and he could quietly make for a great solution to some of the roster holes in Toronto.
Before I go too far, I’ll acknowledge that Santana is still in the middle of recovering from a procedure on his elbow, described as “UCL repair and augmentation with an internal brace” on MLB.com. He couldn’t stay healthy in 2020, and ultimately opted for surgery to deal with the issue, keeping him to just 15 games this year and a .145/.238/.273 slash line over 55 at-bats. So far, it makes total sense that the Rangers would let him go.
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However, if you go back to his last full season in 2019 when he was healthy, Santana was the Rangers’ ‘Player of the Year’, and hit .283/.324/.534 with 28 home runs, 23 doubles, 81 RBI, and 21 stolen bases in 130 games played. That’s a solid season for someone playing pretty much any position, but that’s where Santana’s value is even greater.
In 2019 the now 30-year-old played every defensive position except for pitcher and catcher. He played 51 games in the outfield (27 in centre, 16 in left, 15 in right), 44 at first base, 17 at second, 9 at shortstop, and 8 at the hot corner. For good measure, he also made one start as the designated hitter.
If I’m the Blue Jays, I think I see a pretty decent opportunity here. With most MLB clubs looking like their spending will be very reserved this winter, Santana could be the type to be on the radar of a lot of clubs because of his price range. However, the Blue Jays may be able to make him an early guarantee that others won’t, and that’s something worth considering, even if he likely won’t be healthy in time for the start of next season.
In a best case scenario, you get a player that can cover multiple positions, and contribute with average, power, and even a bit of speed on the base paths. The Rangers had talked of intentions of him being their every-day centre fielder last year before he dealt with injuries, and that’s a role he might be able to fit into in Toronto as well. However, as a super-utility guy off the bench, and a switch-hitter as an added bonus, there could be a lot of value to be had.
He was slated to make 3.6 million in 2020 prior to salaries being prorated this season, and after the injury-filled campaign he just experienced, it’s hard to imagine him getting more than 4-5 million in arbitration. With that in mind, is it worth signing him a deal for around four million for 2021 (maybe with a club option for 2022) and hoping he could find his 2019 form now that he has a healthy elbow? He wouldn’t have to be viewed as a starter by any means, but rather a high-upside role player that could likely find 400+ at-bats even with a healthy roster. Even better, if someone goes down with a long-term injury, Santana could theoretically fill in pretty much anywhere.
The Blue Jays may ultimately decide not to spend much, if any, money to improve their position player depth beyond their starting nine, but if that’s something they’re thinking about, Santana seems like a pretty great fit to me.