The Pirates signed Carlos Santana last off-season and then traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2023 trade deadline. Santana was a solid batter, both for the Bucs and the Brewers. On top of that, he was one of the best defensive players at his position in ‘23, ending the year as a Gold Glove finalist.
Santana batted .240/.318/.429 with a .329 wOBA, and 101 wRC+ through 619 plate appearances. He smacked 23 home runs with a .189 isolated slugging percentage, making it the eighth time he has hit 20+ dingers. With a 10.5% walk rate and 16.8% strikeout rate, it also was the 12th straight season he had a walk rate of at least 10% and a strikeout rate below 20%. Santana was also a better hitter after the All-Star break, owning a 117 wRC+ through his final 271 plate appearances of the season.
Defensively, Santana racked up +11 defensive runs saved, which was the most by any other first baseman. Outs above average was a little less bullish at +3, which ranked 5th among all other 1Bs and far behind the leader, Christian Walker, at +12. But either way, he was a good defensive first baseman.
But Santana isn’t without his risks. He had just a 6.7% barrel rate last year, which was a 2.6% drop from 2022 and below his career average mark of 7.6%. His 88.8 MPH exit velocity was also a noticeable step down from 2022, and his 36.2% hard-hit rate was the worst of his career. Even though his walk rate was above average, it was another career-low rate for him. At 38 in early April, it’s not irrational to wonder how much he has left in the tank.
Santana signed for one year at $6.75 million. I could definitely see him re-signing for the exact same length at the same amount. Even if he only repeats his 2023 campaign, that’s totally worth the money. He was about a +2 WAR player last year, providing an average bat with some pop and good defense at first base.