Should the Indians Deal Carlos Santana for David Price?


Carlos Santana Could Be Focus of Rumored, Huge Trade

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports has suggested the Cleveland Indians could be dark horse players in the trade market for Tampa Bay Rays LHP David Price. Morosi thinks the Indians could offer Carlos Santana for Price, and mentions how the Rays would love to have a guy like Santana, under team control on a friendly deal through the year 2017, and how Santana had worked with Rays Hitting Coach Derek Shelton in the Indians’ minor-league system.

To Morosi’s credit, he does admit this deal is speculation on his part. And Indians fans should hope the team isn’t actively considering this move. Although Price fits the bill of an ace pitcher, it would be terribly short-sighted to trade Carlos Santana, the team’s best offensive player.

Jul 31, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana (41) strikes out in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Santana is often the subject of fan scorn due to his less-than-stellar defense at catcher and often-low batting average. But that’s about where his shortcomings end. He provides good power (especially for someone who can play some catcher) and is an OBP machine (not including an injury-shortened rookie campaign, his lowest OBP total was .351 in 2011, and he’s improved each year since). You don’t just give players like Santana away.

Even if you think new starting catcher Yan Gomes can sustain his 2013 production over the course of an entire season (and for the record, I’m quite skeptical of this, considering Gomes has all of 131 big-league games in his career), trading Carlos Santana for David Price makes absolutely no financial sense for the Indians. None.

Santana is signed to a contract that runs through 2017 if the Indians desire, and will make $3.5 million this year, $6 million the next, $8.25 million in 2016, and there is a team option for 2017 at $12 million, with a $1.2 million buyout. So the Indians are contractually obligated to pay Carlos Santana $18.95 million through 2016 (assuming the option is declined) when he will be 31. For 2014, Steamer projects Santana to be worth 5.2 WAR. According to research by former Wahoo’s On First Editor Lewie Pollis, a win on the free agent market costs approximately $7 million. There is some fluctuation to this number (and I’m completely over-simplifying Lewie’s  meticulous work), but we only need a close average to show that if the Indians were paying for 5.2 WAR on the free agent market, they’d be looking at paying a guy big bucks -far more than what Santana is actually going to make.

By contrast, David Price made approximately $10.1 million in his first year of arbitration in 2013 with the Rays. The Rays deferred approximately $4 million of Price’s 2013 salary to 2014, and Price is expected to get around $13 million in arbitration for 2014. So, in 2014 alone, the Indians would be paying Price approximately $17 million. Then in 2015, he’d be expected to make at least his $13 million or so 2014 salary, but likely would make more, especially if he pitches the way the Indians would hope.

This is not a slam on the qualities of David Price, the pitcher. He’s fantastic (though Steamer projects a down year for him in 2014, at 3.8 WAR) and the Rays should rightfully ask for the moon in return for their ace lefty. But a Carlos Santana-for-David Price deal just doesn’t make sense for the Indians. Not only would they give up their most talented offensive player in the deal, but would also end up paying much more money, for only two guaranteed years of Price. The Indians do need at least one more starting pitcher. But Price won’t be cheap, and at that cost, it makes more sense to go all-in and re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez. Giving up Carlos Santana for David Price would be a terrible mistake by the Tribe.