Ron Costello

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Good Move or No?

Pete Mackanin couldn't do it. Nor could Matt Stairs, Larry Bowa, or Juan Samuel.

Even "Mick-eeee More-EN-DE-NEE," couldn't.

Maybe this will work.

Following in the footsteps of Jim Thome, Carlos Santana has left the Indians after a seven-year career and grabbed the money in Philly. Cleveland made a "qualifying offer" to the switch-hitting slugger — a one year deal worth $17.4 million.

On Friday, Santana signed a $60 million, three-year deal with the Phillies; and therefore the Indians get the Phillies' second-round draft pick in June. So not only does the signing kill one younger, promising player — Tommy Joseph — but snags another in the June draft.

A qualifying offer is baseball speak: "So, you're thinking of leaving? Here's a qualifying offer for $17.4 million for next season. Now go see if you can get a nice three-year deal so we get a high draft pick." And that's exactly what happened.

But here's the thing. In 2017, Cleveland Indians first basemen Carlos Santana, who turns 32 in April, hit 23 home runs. Tommy Joseph, 26 — hit 24. Santana had ten more RBIs (79) than Joseph (69). It should be noted that last season Santana had 71 more at-bats than Joseph. Okay, duly noted.

There's more than a difference in age. Surely, at the end of his new three-year deal, Santana, at 35, it's unlikely he'll be in the market to sign another. He's got his money, so how hungry do you think Santana will be? Tommy Joseph, on the other hand, had an okay season, but is yet to prove himself. How hungry do you think he'll be?

The Santana signing seals Joseph's death sentence. So now, everybody with half a brain knows the Phillies must trade Tommy Joseph. Clubs may sit back and offer low-level minor league prospects to get a younger Carlos Santana — aka Tommy Joseph.

Granted, Santana's on-base-percentage is higher; but Joseph hasn't learned patience and swings at bad pitches. Younger players do that.

On top of everything else, the deal moves Rhys Hoskins out of his normal — comfortable? — position to left. I hope they know what they're doing.

Even so, the Santana signing may be a move for something bigger, something even more important than home run and RBI statistics. That is, the mentoring of Maikel Franco. It's not uncommon for a team to bring a player in to help other players. The Phillies are not happy with Franco's progress. He should be hitting at a higher average, stroking ten more home runs a season, driving in more runs, walking more and striking out less. Did I miss anything?

Nobody, it seems, has been able to motivate the 25-year-old Franco. Could the Phillies have signed Carlos Santana — known for his patience (high number of walks) and his work ethic — to help Franco "find himself?"

Both players are from the Dominican Republic, and having Santana on the field, in the dugout and in the locker room as a positive mentor for the struggling Franco, may have been the young Matt Klentak's best move yet.

In trading Freddy Galvis rather than Franco, it's obvious the Phillies have not given up on Franco. Santana's signing could be even more proof that the club thinks Franco can become a better major league hitter.

He just needs the right mentor.

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