Carlos Santana was a sneaky good signing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2023. But is it worth bringing him back for another season? Santana, in 2023, was an above-average hitter with good defense behind him. However, his main attraction is his leadership skills, with his willingness to go all out on every play, something a lot of younger players aren’t willing to do.
Santana showed he can be a role player on teams despite being near 38-years-old. But is it worth the Pittsburgh Pirates reuniting with the aging first baseman?
Santana brings leadership to a team but can also help lead a team to the playoffs. Late in games, he can even win games for you. His power may be declining, but that doesn’t matter because between innings 7-9 when he is at bat, he can create runs. In 155 at-bats in those innings, he was at his peak form, batting .297 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs for an OPS+ of 126, marking 26% better than the league average.
He may be known for his offense, but in 2023, he made many plays that even players 10 years younger than him can’t and won’t make. He may be known as Slamtana, but at times he can become Mr. Smooth, creating some amazing highlight-worthy defensive plays.
Finally, Santana is known as a power-hitting first baseman, but that doesn’t even tell part of the story. He doesn’t strike out too often at just 16.8 percent, with the ability to also walk quite a bit at 10.5 percent. He also doesn’t often whiff on pitches and isn't willing to chase a whole lot.
When a power-hitter is often in a 3-0, 3-1, or full count, they often attempt to do too much at the plate. But Santana is the opposite and, like David Vogelbach, is willing to take a walk to help the team. After 3-0 counts, Santana has hit .313 with 17 walks, four strikeouts, one home run, three RBIs, and a .667 on-base percentage, which is much better than the league-average player in that position.
In full counts, is when Santana becomes unstoppable with a .233 average which seems low, but with 36 walks, it marks a .521 on-base percentage with four home runs and ten RBIs, which boosts his OPS to 1.004 or an OPS+ of 163, marking 63% better than the league average.
Santana won’t make the Hall of Fame, but he has created moments that belong in the Hall of Fame. He has postseason experience that could help the Pirates try to make it back to the postseason. He is a short-term option but seems to be one of the most viable options on the table currently. He is willing to hustle out every player while performing best under pressure. A reunion in Pittsburgh could be the best outcome for both parties with his ability to create a healthy clubhouse experience.