Royals sign Carlos Santana
While Monday was a day of trades with a couple of significant pitchers changing uniforms via trade, Tuesday saw three major-league signings go down. The most significant, at least in terms of money, was with the Royals. They have been relatively aggressive so far this winter and continued that by signing Carlos Santana to a two-year deal worth $17.5 million.
Santana has long been one of the steadier first basemen in the league, typically below the top tier at his position but better than average nonetheless. The veteran struggled mightily in the shortened 2020 campaign, though, finishing the year with a 91 OPS+. That was his lowest mark of his career, and the first time he’s ever had an OPS that came in worse than league-average.
The Royals are betting on a bounce-back here from the veteran, and there is reason for optimism. Even beyond the argument of tossing aside anything from this past year given all the weirdness, Santana also boasted strong exit velocity numbers that could portend better future performance. If that does happen, the Royals get a good deal on a guy they can stick in the middle of their lineup. It’s interesting to see the Royals go after him, along with Mike Minor and Michael Taylor earlier in the winter, despite where they are on the win curve. They aren’t quite a contender yet, but in comparing them to a team like the Orioles, I know who I’d rather watch on a daily basis in 2021.
As for the Red Sox, there’s really no effect here unless you think Kansas City is getting ready to make a wildcard run. In that case, they could be competition for Boston, and it could also mean someone like Whit Merrifield may not be available in a trade. I’m not sure how realistic that ever was, but it’s probably totally off the table at this point.
White Sox sign Adam Eaton
The White Sox made one of the biggest moves of the offseason so far when, on Monday, they traded for Lance Lynn. On Tuesday, they followed it up by signing Adam Eaton to a one-year deal worth $7 million. This is a reunion with the veteran outfielder, who spent three years with Chicago last decade before being traded to Washington as part of Chicago’s teardown that also netted Boston Chris Sale.
This certainly is not going to be the kind of impact move that they made with Lynn, but Chicago is hoping for a bounce-back much in the same way Kansas City is with Santana. Eaton was even worse than Santana, though, putting up an OPS+ of just 76 in 2020 with the Nationals. Once a center fielder for the White Sox, the now-32-year-old is going to slide into right field for Chicago. The good news there is he is only trying to be better than Nomar Mazara was last year, which is not a high bar. The bad news is there’s an argument to be made this isn’t much of an upgrade, if at all, over Adam Engel.
Eaton feasibly could have made some sense for the Red Sox as a guy who can play right field and shift Alex Verdugo to center. That said, I’m not exactly going to lose sleep over the team missing out on this one. For a team like the White Sox who are definitely going for it in 2020, there is more of an argument. But there’s not a whole lot of upside here and if the Red Sox are going to move Verdugo over I’d prefer that happen for a guy who could feasibly make himself into a longer term part of the roster, in whatever form that may take.
Giants sign Matt Wisler
The first signing to come down the wire on Tuesday was out in San Francisco when the Giants signed reliever Matt Wisler to a one-year deal worth $1.15 million. There are performance bonuses that can raise his salary up another $500,000. Wisler was one of the favorite under-the-radar non-tenders from the deadline last week in the industry.
The righty spent last summer with the Twins, and quietly put together a strong summer. Wisler finished 2020 with a minuscule 1.07 ERA in Minnesota over 25 1⁄3 innings with 35 strikeouts and 14 walks. He was a bit of an oddity in his approach, throwing his slider over 80 percent of the time and mixing in his fastball just enough to not be too predictable. While the ERA was outstanding, he benefitted from an unsustainable strand rate.
That said, the strikeout stuff certainly looked legitimate and there will be people who are upset at Boston missing out on this one for such a small price. It’s hard to argue and given the price I wouldn’t have complained. However, I’m not sold on Wisler just because of 25 innings, especially with the possibility that the slider-heavy approach backfires the more ready opponents are for it. If it was later in the offseason I may be more upset, but as of now there are plenty of other options to go after.