The KC Royals added a corner infielder this winter. He must have a big 2021.
The Royals may never fill the hole wildly popular first baseman Eric Hosmer left in their fans’ hearts and the club’s lineup when he headed to San Diego after the 2017 season. Kansas City hasn’t found a suitable replacement for its All-Star, Gold Glove first baseman: the Royals tried Lucas Duda twice, Ryan O’Hearn won the job one year and lost it the next, and they need Hunter Dozier at third after cutting Maikel Franco loose in December.
So, still needing to stabilize things at first, General Manager Dayton Moore went hunting for another first sacker this winter and found him on the free agent market. He signed Carlos Santana, proven at the position, to a two-year contract in December.
Like so many other accomplished major leaguers, Santana suffered a partially disappointing pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Playing every game for Cleveland, he hit only .199 with a 91 OPS+. But he led the American League in walks with 47, hit eight homers (the equivalent of almost 22 for a full season) and posted a .349 OBP.
Santana’s career offensive numbers make clear why Moore pursued him. His 11-year OBP is .366, he’s exceeded 20 homers seven times and clubbed 34 twice, and drawn at least 100 walks in four seasons, including a major league-leading 113 in 2014.
Approaching those stats is crucial if the KC Royals’ improvement is to continue. Clubs need power and production from their corner infield spots, and those are commodities Kansas City hasn’t consistently enjoyed from its first basemen since Hosmer went west. Santana can supply both, and needs to.