The Cleveland Indians’ decision to let first baseman Carlos Santana walk in free agency is working out — thanks to Yonder Alonso.
The Cleveland Indians front office continues to prove itself to be one of the — if not the best — in Major League Baseball. Longtime first baseman Carlos Santana inked a lucrative 3-year, $60 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies December 20. Just three days later the Indians announced their signing of Yonder Alonso, who was coming off an all-star game appearance.
The kicker? Alonso’s deal is for just two seasons with only $16 million guaranteed, while his production in 2018 has been strikingly similar to Santana’s. Their respective production in several major statistical categories is almost identical (all statistics through 8/29, according to Baseball Reference):
Needless to say, the numbers perfectly exhibit the shrewd ways of the Tribe’s front office and President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti. The Indians are paying $12 million less annually for their new first baseman for just a 0.4 difference in offensive WAR. An argument could be made that the more consistent nature of Alonso’s 2018 production helps stabilize the lineup:
Outside of his August struggles, Alonso has avoided the devastating dips in production Phillies fans have witnessed this season. Santana’s tendency to scuffle out of the gate continued this season — but his dips in month-to-month production display his inconsistency:
While Alonso isn’t a model for consistency, Santana has nearly disappeared at times this season. Trust me, I know – he’s on my fantasy team. Furthermore, in high-leverage situations, Alonso is slashing .318/.359/.553 with five long balls and 25 RBI in 85 at bats.
Santana’s slash line in high leverage moments? Just .228/.348/.370 with two home runs and 18 RBI in 92 at bats.
The goal in comparing Alonso and Santana’s statistics isn’t to belittle the team’s former mainstay — but rather to highlight the importance of removing all emotion from contract negotiations. Tribe front office members, along with everyone in baseball, knew Santana wasn’t worth $60 million over three years.
Instead, they found Alonso on a team-friendly deal and haven’t skipped a beat offensively — while Phillies fans remain frustrated with their $60 million investment. Remember, the Indians gave Edwin Encarnacion $60 million over three seasons before the 2017 campaign.
Compare Encarnacion’s production to Santana’s since the beginning of last season:
It’s apparent Antonetti and staff made the correct decision in giving their big-money contract to Encarnacion — and shocking the Phillies thought Santana to be on the same level.
The Indians will remain competitive as long as their front office continues to play chess while their peers play checkers.