The Cleveland Indians have officially signed outfielder Domingo Santana, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The deal has a base of $1.5 million over one year, but includes several opportunities for the value to increase, including a hefty $5 million club option for 2020.
Domingo Santana’s deal with #Indians is complete, source tells The Athletic. One year, $1.5M with $500K in roster bonuses. Also: $5M club option with $250K buyout. Value of option escalates by amount of each roster bonus he earns. So, could end up two-year, $7.5M deal.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 14, 2020
News of Santana signing with the Indians popped up last week out of the Dominican Republican. At the time, it appeared that Santana had agreed to a deal with the Indians “north of $1 million,” but he hadn’t made it stateside for physicals quite yet.
On Thursday Santana was spotted at the Indians facility, so if there was any doubt about the initial rumor’s legitimacy it was thoroughly washed away.
Santana brings to the Indians organization a powerful bat, a lot of strikeouts, and maybe the worst outfield glove in baseball. The 27-year-old battled through injuries with the Mariners last season, slashing .253/.329/.441 with 21 home runs and a wRC+ of 107. Even that would make him one of the Indians’ better bats, but the hope is obviously that he can return to something resembling his 2017 form, where with the Brewers he slashed .278/.371/.505 with a career-high 30 home runs. He kept his strikeout rate under 30% and walked a career-high 12% of the time. If he can approach the 127 wRC+ he put up that season, this is an obvious steal for the Indians, defensive deficiencies or not.
Santana’s presence on the Indians 26-man roster may cause a few ripples down the organizational chain. For example, his poor defense (according to Statcast he had the second-worst outfield outs above average last season at -13) may push the Indians further towards depending on Franmil Reyes to be an everyday outfielder with Santana as the designated hitter. Reyes, to his credit, has reportedly come to spring training lighter than ever and ready for the added responsibility. He’s not going to win a Gold Glove, but he’s much better than Santana in the field. That at least solidifies one outfield spot, but the other two are still more or less open.
With Santana as an every day DH, that also causes issues for Jake Bauers and Bobby Bradley. The former is probably going to make the Opening Day roster somewhere while the latter will likely be stuck mashing Triple-A balls and waiting for another chance to prove he can translate those talents to the majors.
At the very least, this gives the Indians another potential well above-average bat and something interesting to talk about before the Indians open their 2020 season against the Tigers on March 26.