Red Sox Rumors: Carlos Santana a potential free agent backup plan

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 30: Carlos Santana
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 30: Carlos Santana /

The Boston Red Sox have reportedly engaged in talks with free agent first baseman Carlos Santana but are waiting to see how other plans unfold.

It’s no secret who the top free agent targets are for the Boston Red Sox but every team needs a backup plan. Dave Dombrowski appears to have Carlos Santana on his radar in case his preferred options don’t pan out.

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reports that the Red Sox have engaged in talks with Santana. While they have interest in adding the free agent first baseman they appear to be holding off until they see how their plans for signing J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer unfold.

Boston’s brass is expected to meet with Martinez at the Winter Meetings in Orlando but until they can convince him to sign his name on the dotted line they need to keep their options open.

There has been some speculation that Boston could try to sign two of the three top free agent bats. The defensively challenged Martinez is well suited to fill the designated hitter role, while either of the other two options would take over at first base.

If they miss out on Martinez, countering with the signing of both Hosmer and Santana doesn’t seem feasible. Hosmer is a Gold Glove winner, while Santana was arguably superior in the field and more deserving of the award. Neither is likely to be as open to becoming a full-time DH as Martinez is at this stage of their careers.

If Boston managed to land Martinez plus either of the first base options, what would that mean for Hanley Ramirez? Boston would be wise to limit his playing time enough to ensure his 2019 option doesn’t vest but leaving him without a starting gig won’t sit well with the veteran. If he’ll potentially hit the free agent market next winter then Ramirez will demand enough plate appearances to earn himself a new contract and could become a clubhouse distraction if he doesn’t get that opportunity. A Red Sox team starved for power will need Ramirez in the lineup if his surgically repaired shoulder is healthy enough for him to return to his 2016 level of production.

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Unless the Red Sox plan to trade Jackie Bradley and let Martinez play left field – a plan that would turn the best outfield defense in baseball into a weakness – they may need to settle for only one of these three free agents.

Santana wouldn’t be their top priority in that case but he’s still an enticing backup plan. The 31-year old has never been a high-average hitter but his penchant for drawing walks makes him reliable at getting on base, with a career .356 OBP. His 23 home runs were only one more than the Red Sox got from Mitch Moreland this year but the 34 homers Santana hit in 2016 shows he has a higher power ceiling. He also brings strong defense at first base, rating higher than Hosmer in advanced metrics with 10 defensive runs saved and a 4.7 UZR/150 this season.

It seems clear that Santana is no higher than third on Boston’s free agent priority list but he remains an option to keep an eye on. He’s not in the same class as Martinez or Hosmer but he would cost far less, both in terms of salary and years of commitment.

Next: Free Agents Red Sox should avoid

Martinez remains the big fish who Dombrowski hopes to reel in but as far as backup plans go they could do a loss worse than Santana.