Phillies make play for relevancy with Santana signing

Philadelphia signs Carlos Santana to three-year deal.
The addition of Carlos Santana signifies a strengthening pulse as the Phillies awaken from the doldrums of a four-year rebuild.

Signing Santana doesn't secure a division title or even a wild-card berth, but the move indicates a philosophical change within an ownership that just this past week argued the value of playing youth in 2018 over signing veterans to big money contracts.

Santana brings a skill set desperately needed within the Phillies offense. He'll never hit for a high average, but he's disciplined at the plate and doesn't chase pitches out of the strike zone. He's the only player in the majors to record at least 80 walks over each of the last seven seasons. Yep, the only one.

He's also durable and a better defender at first base than Rhys Hoskins, so in addition to creating runs for the Phillies he'll save some on the defensive side too.

The move will push Hoskins to left field, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, several people within the organization believe Hoskins is a better defender in left field than at first base.

Santana by himself won't catapult the Phillies into the world of baseball relevancy again, but he's a starting point. The type of complementary player that has the potential to intrigue eventual free agents like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

Three-years for $60 million is a lofty contract, but it's not burdensome to the Phillies in the least. The club has the cash to burn, and everyone in baseball knows it.

What's next now for the Phillies is starting pitching. With Hoskins headed to left field, either Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams appears now to be expendable. Toss in Tommy Joseph and possibly Cesar Hernandez or a prospect and the Phillies should be able to land a middle of the rotation type starter via trade.

The gap between the Phillies and division champion Nationals last year was 31 games. It's unrealistic to expect the Phillies to reverse their win-loss record from a year ago, but it's entirely possible the organization improves by at least 15 games to reach the .500-mark.

You would be kidding yourself if you said questions didn't exist, particularly about the Phillies starting rotation. However, with additions of Santana and relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, the roster now appears on paper at least to be better than a 66-win club.

Notebook
Several sources this past week at the Winter Meetings said the Phillies have long been internally discussing Maikel Franco's future in Philadelphia. The 25-year-old third baseman struggled mightily at the plate last season and finished the season with a .230 OBP. He's under team control through the 2021 season and does have occasional pop in his bat, so he could have some trade value in the club's quest to land starting pitching.

Between the additions of Santana, Neshek, and Hunter the Phillies spent $92 million on free agents this past week. That may not translate to a winning campaign in 2018, but it does send a message to general managers and players across baseball that the organization has turned a corner.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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