Remember Carlos Santana? Of course you do. He’s the power hitting master of getting on base the KC Royals signed for two years in late 2020. Lauded by many at the time as a shrewd, long-awaited solution to the first base problem Eric Hosmer left the Royals when he took his talents to San Diego, the move is now just another in the line of sweet-looking Kansas City deals gone sour.
Santana initially met his new club’s expectations—he had 15 home runs, 50 RBIs, and a .368 OBP at last season’s All-Star Break—but a hip injury he played through ruined his second half.
Nothing suggests any lingering effects from that injury, but Santana with a bat in his hands is worse now than when he was hobbled. Through Thursday, he’s slashing an astonishingly low .122/.287/.195. He has one homer and six RBIs. (A recent ankle injury forced him to the Injured List, but he was slumping long before that).
Santana is, bluntly, no longer who KC needs him to be.
The time has come for the KC Royals to say good-bye to Carlos Santana.
He’s disappointed all season. One big reason manager Mike Matheny continued to play him was a focus in this space last month—the Royals hope his trade value increases by baseball’s Aug. 2 trade deadline. After all, he’ll be a free agent again this winter and Kansas City won’t be bringing him back, not with Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino waiting in the wings and ready to take center stage.
The Royals dream of getting something for him, not the nothing that will come from releasing him or keeping him all season.
So it is, whether we like it or not, that Santana remains a fixture at first base. It isn’t that the Royals want to block Pratto or Pasquantino. Instead, they simply cling to the notion that Santana might snap out of his batting funk and rekindle the ember that used to be decent trade value.
But betting on the come hurts the Royals. Keeping and playing an obviously declining Santana isn’t much different than doing the same with Ryan O’Hearn.
What to do, then, with Santana, to whom the Royals owe much of the $10.5 million remaining on his contract when this season started?
The solution is simple. Eat the money, which he’ll be paid whether he plays or not. Thank him for the hope he brought to town, the homers he hit, and his good first base defense. Then say good-bye, wish him well, and hope he finds elsewhere the success Jorge Soler did in similar circumstances last season.
It’s time for the Royals and Santana to part ways. And time for Vinnie Pasquantino, Nick Pratto. or Hunter Dozier at first base.
Kansas City needs to move on from Carlos Santana.