Another day has just about come and gone, and the Milwaukee Brewers have yet to complete their first transaction of the 2017 Winter Meetings. That doesn’t mean that Milwaukee’s front office executives haven’t been busy, though. David Stearns and company remain on the lookout for starting pitching and are willing to deal from their outfield depth in order to address that need. They’ve reportedly been listening to offers for Domingo Santana, though there’s been some indication that the market for him hasn’t exactly been as bullish as expected.
I asked around on Domingo Santana and heard some mixed reviews. A lot of swing and miss. Not a great OF defender. Will soon get more expensive in arbitration. One exec said #Brewers are trying to "sell high'' on him. Market not as brisk as Milwaukee might have hoped.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 12, 2017
Makes sense for #Brewers to shop Santana. They could move either Brinson or Phillips to right field and still have a young slugger who would be a defensive upgrade. And you'd be selling high, with hopefully a big return.— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 12, 2017
As was discussed here, Slingin’ Stearns is warranted in placing a high price on his slugging 25 year old right fielder. He was Milwaukee’s best overall offensive player in 2017, batting a stellar .278/.371/.505 with 30 home runs and 15 steals in 607 plate appearances. Santana has another season making roughly the league minimum in 2018 before he becomes eligible for arbitration. He doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2021 season.
As Crasnick notes, Santana has shown some limitations to his game during his time in the big leagues. He struck out 29.1% of the time last season and his overall contact rate was seven points below the league average. He’s has graded out as a poor defender in right field, though the metrics did like his work much better in 2017 than they did during his injury-shortened 2016 season. And if next season Santana is able to put together a performance similar to how good he was this past year, there’s precedent to believe that his first year arbitration salary will fall somewhere between $4-$5 mil in 2019.
It is important to remember that when anonymous executives give quotes like this in the media they often do so for a self-serving purpose. Of course a rival General Manager isn’t going to want to have to meet the initial asking price for a given player, and execs have been known to negotiate through the media in an effort to manipulate the market and drive down prices. The Athletics and Giants are two teams that are believed to have shown interest in Santana.
Stearns has developed a reputation for holding strong to his player evaluations while GM of the Brewers, for better or for worse. From Jonathan Lucroy to Sonny Gray, Stearns has demonstrated that he will not act on an offer unless he believes he’s getting fair value out of the deal whether he’s buying or selling. Despite his flaws there’s an argument to be made for Domingo Santana as one of the most valuable players in the Brewers’ organization, which means that Stearns will either be compensated as such or he’ll simply hold on to his starting right fielder.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs