Cleveland has been willing to shed payroll this winter, and that’s fortunate for the KC Royals.
Kansas City hasn’t completely recovered from the loss of Eric Hosmer, the popular first baseman they carefully nurtured from first-round draft pick to four-time Gold Glove winning All-Star and Silver Slugger by the time he left for free agency after the 2017 season. Lucas Duda tried and failed to replace him, Ryan O’Hearn looked like he might but didn’t, and Hunter Dozier was making a good case for himself before the Royals looked to Cleveland this winter for their first base solution.
Fortunately, Dozier survived the deal and heads back to third base unless Dayton Moore’s search for a lefthanded bat lands another third sacker and Dozier moves to left field. Because the Royals will find somewhere for Dozier to play next season, KC’s acquisition of Carlos Santana is of more immediate import.
Kansas City took advantage of the Indians’ cost-saving roster trimming by signing Santana to a two-year, reported $17.5 million contract just days before the club secured Greg Holland’s return.
The deal closes the door on any notion that O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom might compete again for Hosmer’s old job. Santana is an established switch-hitting power hitter (240 home runs in 11 seasons) with an adequate glove; although he’ll be 35 in early April, he didn’t miss a game last season, so there’s something left in the tank.
And his .199 average in 2020 shouldn’t detract from the quality of his acquisition—he led the American League with 47 walks (he’s drawn over 100 in four different seasons) and posted a .349 OBP. He earned an All-Star berth and Silver Slugger in 2019 with 34 homers, 93 RBIs and a .281/.397/.515 slash.
Santana is the best the KC Royals have had at first base since Hosmer. Getting him earns Moore and the front office an “A.”