Kansas City Royals are betting on a Carlos Santana rebound

Carlos Santana had a down 2020 campaign, but the Kansas City Royals are making a bet on a rebound.

The Kansas City Royals added a veteran piece to their starting rotation last week, signing Mike Minor to a two-year deal. Now they’ve added a veteran piece to the lineup, with Jon Heyman of MLB Network first to report the Royals have agreed to a deal with first baseman Carlos Santana.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan has reported it’s a two-year, $17.5 million deal with another $1 million available in incentives.

Aside from a one-year detour with the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League in 2018, Santana has spent his entire career with the Cleveland Indians. He had a down 2020 campaign (.199/.349/.350 slash-line, eight home runs, 30 RBI over the full 60 games-255 plate appearances). He led the AL in walks (47), but his hard hit rate and barrel rates were six-year lows (via Statcast).

Royals are betting on Carlos Santana rebounding

Santana’s poor numbers last season were also rooted in an awful BABIP (.212). But his xwOBA (.360, via Statcast) was a below the surface positive sign, and the small sample of 2020 has to be noted. In 2019, Santana posted a .281/.397/.515 slash line with 34 home runs and 93 RBI over 158 games (686 plate appearances).

The Royals are of course plenty familiar with Santana. He has more more home runs (31) and RBI (93) against them any other opponent, with a .288/.416/.537 slash-line over a season’s worth of games (151-663 plate appearances). Narrowing to Kaufmann Stadium, Santana has a .327/.449/.628 career slash-line there, with 18 home runs and 61 RBI over 74 games (334 plate appearances) in his new home park.

The Indians declined a $17.5 million option on Santana for 2021. So coincidentally or not, he has now recouped that over a two-year deal with the Royals. The deal also outpaces, as a nod to him entering his age-35 season and coming off a down year, MLB Trade Rumors’ projected deal for him (one year, $6 million). But his offensive skill set, rooted in on-base prowess and power, had aged fine before the truncated 2020 season. The Royals are making a fairly solid bet on that being a small sample blip.

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