The Pirates are more than familiar with Carlos Santana, as they signed him last year to a one-year, $6.75 million deal. Santana gave the Pirates what they expected: a good glove at first base with some pop and an overall league average bat. The Pirates then traded him to the division rival Milwaukee Brewers where he has continued to give similar production.
Overall on the year, Santana is slashing .240/.317/.426 with 22 home runs through 612 plate appearances. Santana has never been one to strike out much, and his 16.5% strikeout rate is right in line with his career average. His .185 isolated slugging percentage is the highest rate he’s posted since 2019 and just four ticks below his career average. With a .321 wOBA and 100 wRC+, Santana has been one of the closest to league average batters in baseball this season.
Sure, a league average hitting first baseman might not seem like much, but Santana may end up winning the National League Gold Glove at his position. His +11 defensive runs saved leads all players at his position. He is also second to Arizona Diamondbacks’ 1B Christian Walker, and tied with 2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt, and 2023 MVP candidate Freddie Freeman in outs above average at +3.
But there are some red flags that fans should be aware of. The first is his raw power. He’s seen a decrease in this department, posting career lows in exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate. Because of the dip in batted ball quality, he’s also seen a dip in his xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG. While his 10.3% walk rate is still good, it’s the worst of his career by 3.1%. Santana will turn 38 years old in the first week of April, so keep that in mind.
Age is certainly a factor, and you wouldn’t be wrong for worrying if a 38-year-old first baseman would start hitting like a 38-year-old first baseman. But if Santana was willing to sign a similar deal again (something like one year for $5-7 million), then I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing him back. Santana is as consistent as they come.