Depending on how much you trust random unverified Twitter accounts with over 100,000 thousand followers — including many verified sports personalities — the Indians may or may not have signed slugging outfielder Domingo Santana yesterday.
Yancen Pujols, who best I can tell is a well-connected Dominican sports broadcaster, claimed last night that Santana was indeed headed to Cleveland for a deal worth more than $1 million. There hasn’t been a peep of anything else since, but there hasn’t been a peep of anything from the Indians this offseason, so I’m taking what I can get.
Source: Outfielder Domingo Santana signs with the Cleveland Indians. Deal’s north one million dollars.— Yancen Pujols (@YancenPujols) February 5, 2020
If true, the deal would mark the first signing since the Indians splurged and brought in the recently non-tendered César Hernández on a one-year, $6.26 million deal in December. It would also likely mean the club isn’t going to bring in Yasiel Puig and his bad rubbings. You don’t expect them to sign three major leaguers in the same offseason, do you? In this economy?
Not getting Puig would be a bummer, but Santana is no slouch, either. At 27 and coming off a rebound year of sorts with the Seattle Mariners, Santana is at the very least an intriguing addition in the outfield. He’s not much better than — and probably worse than — Franmil Reyes on defense, but he comes with a powerful bat capable of hitting 30 homers as he did in 2017 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Very few current Indians outfielders can claim that.
One of the best things about Santana’s game is his ability to spray the ball all over the field and still maintain 20+ homer power. He went opposite field 26% of the time last season, up from his worst season, and pull-rate, in 2018. In his studly 2017 campaign, he went oppo 28% of the time.
His career spray chart, of course, shows some tendencies to pull ground balls, but the outfield is coated in multi-colored buckshot as he peppered all fields in Milwaukee and Seattle.
Santana’s Statcast numbers are down from the drool-worthy peak of 2017 when he was in the upper quarter of hard-hitting baseballers, but last season his exit velocity was in the 69th percentile, as was his expected wOBA.
If there is a large, obvious hole in Santana’s game, it’s his ghastly strikeout rate and poor defense. He currently holds a career 32% strikeout rate and Statcast’s comprehensive defensive measurement, outs above average, has him in the 1st percentile — the worst of the worst. Hit 30 home runs and maintain a double-digit walk rate and a lot of that is covered up, though. Especially in the current landscape of the Indians outfield.
Domingo’s 0.9 projected WAR from ZiPS is only 0.2 wins less than it projects for Jake Bauers, Greg Allen, Daniel Johnson, and Jordan Luplow combined. ZiPS also has him hitting 23 home runs in 511 plate appearances. Steamer has him pegged at a .251/.337/.445 slash for a wRC+ of 105. In just 107 projected games, the projection system sees him hitting 19 home runs and stealing six bases.