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Indians rumors: Carlos Santana could play some 3B next season

The Indians are kicking the tires on even greater lineup versatility in 2014

Jason Miller

Carlos Santana
has been taking infield practice at third base over the last couple weeks* and could play the position in some games back in his home country of the Dominican Republic, this per Cleveland Plain Dealer Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes.

*I'm not sure in what context Santana has been fielding grounders, but I like to think it's in pickup games with the kids in his neighborhood, on a field where third base is someone's sweatshirt and a ball hit into Mr. Dunne's yard is a home run.

Santana has been a catcher during his time in the big leagues, but has also played at first base and designated hitter more and more, starting a career-high 71 games away from catcher in 2013 (47 at DH, 24 at 1B). The emergence of Yan Gomes as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball and someone who can swing a decent bat of his own meant that Santana only rarely played behind the plate as the season wound down (only 3 times in the Tribe's final 25 games).

Gomes will serve as the team's primary catcher in 2014, and Nick Swisher will again be the team's primary first baseman. Santana will likely fill in at each of those positions once or twice a week, but looks likely to work as the Indians' designated hitter in a majority of games. Third base has been a weak spot for the Tribe though, and while the hope is certainly that Lonnie Chisenhall finally puts things together for a full season, the Indians seem intent on leaving no stone unturned.

Santana has in fact played 3B before, though not since the Indians acquired him for Casey Blake in July of 2008. (Take a minute to reflect on that trade. ...Ahhh, good times.) Santana played 3B 14 times in 2005, 38 times in 2006, 5 times in 2007, and once in 2008 (before the trade). In part that sharp rise and fall of appearances is due to the Dodgers having determined he could handle catcher, which made his bat more valuable. In part it was due to him being a mess at third.

In 2006, the year he was given the most opportunities at the hot corner, Santana made 12 errors in 98 chances, giving him a fielding percentage of .860 (errors on 14% of his chances). The worst FP by anyone there in 2013 was .930 (errors on 7% of his chances), which means Santana was making errors back at twice the rate of this season's worst third baseman. I don't think six years away from the position are going to have improved his play there.

There's no harm in seeing what he can do this winter, but I wouldn't hold my breath on him playing the position in anything beyond an emergency situation for the Indians (seriously, don't hold your breath on it, because even if he's the second coming of Brooks Robinson down there, Opening Day is months away, and you'll suffocate long before then).

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Editor's note: A couple weeks back someone in the comments suggested that Santana play third base, and I shot it down completely. As I said just above, I still don't think it's going to happen, but I didn't think the Indians would even consider it, and obviously I've now been proven wrong. So, a tip of my hat to that commenter.

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