Indians Get No Discount With Santana Extension

Offensively competent catchers are perhaps the rarest commodity in baseball, and clubs tend to go to great lengths to make sure they can keep those guys long-term. The Indians and Carlos Santana agreed to a five-year contract extension yesterday, a deal that guarantees him $21 million and includes a $12 million club option for a sixth year. Jordan Bastian of and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer both deserve credit for breaking the news.

Santana, 26, was already under team control through 2016. The new extension kicks in immediately, so it covers his final two pre-arbitration years and all three years of arbitration-eligibility. The club option covers one year of free agency. The Indians gained cost certainty more than anything, though that club option is obviously very appealing. Santana only signed for $75,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2004, so he gets some serious long-term financial security.

Catchers carry more injury risk than any non-pitcher position in baseball. Santana tore up some knee ligaments in 2010 after a collision at the plate, so Cleveland is well aware of the risk. They mitigated it somewhat last year by having him spend a ton of time at first base — 63 starts and 66 total games. Santana started 88 games behind the plate and another three at DH. Despite the presence of Casey Kotchman, I’m sure the Tribe will find ways get him out from behind the plate more than a few times this year, perhaps against left-handed starters.

Spending half the year at first base and DH is a great way to marginalize value, but it should help keep Santana on the field and that’s what’s important for both he and the team. In 658 plate appearances last season — his first and so far only full season in the show — he produced a .349 wOBA with 27 homers. His 14.7% walk rate was the eighth highest in baseball. Although he has shown a bit of a platoon split in his career — .347 wOBA vs. RHP and .383 vs. LHP — it’s just nitpicking at this point. The man can hit.

Most standout catchers sign multi-year contracts before hitting free agency because, as I said, they’re hard to find and teams will go to great lengths to make sure they keep these guys around. Here’s a sampling of similar offensive-first guys and their income during the years covered by Santana’s extension…

Santana M. Montero B. McCann J. Mauer M. Napoli
$0.5 $0.4M $0.5M $0.325M $0.425M
Pre-Arb $0.55 $0.425M $0.8M $0.4M $2M
Arb 1  $3.5M $2M $3.5M $3.75M $3.6M
Arb 2  $6M $3.2M $5.5M $6.25M $5.8M
Arb 3  $8.25M $5.9M $6.5M $10.5M $9.4M
Total $21M $11.925M $16.8M $21.225M $21.225M

Montero and McCann are really good players, but the Indians are gambling that Santana will be more like Mauer and Napoli, truly elite offensive performers. It’s worth noting that Mauer signed a long-term extension while Napoli went year-to-year as a Super Two, meaning he was arbitration-eligible four times rather than the usual three. They ended up making the same amount of money during similar portions of their careers, however.

The Indians should be able to get more plate appearances out of Santana by having him spend some time at first base, and he was definitely an elite hitter last season. There is every reason to expect him to mash going forward, barring something unforeseen like say, tearing knee ligaments while getting run over at the plate. Those are the perils of the position. Santana is very clearly one of the game’s best young players and most valuable assets, ranking 13th in our trade value series last summer and likely to place in the top ten this year. The Tribe isn’t getting much if any discount however, they’re paying Santana the market rate for elite offensive catchers and only secured one free agent year.

Print This Post

Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

38 Responses to “Indians Get No Discount With Santana Extension”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Steve says:

    Come on. His bat at C for $21M is a bargain. You just can’t convince me otherwise.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Mike Axisa says:

      It is a bargain compared to what he would get on the free agent market. Compared to what similar players got for the same years of their careers, not so much.

      +17 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Andrew says:

      Abritators don’t look at WAR, fyi. Not only does Santana get no credit for positional value, he’s also probably not going to be a high batting average guy. Very undervalued by the arbitration process.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hermie13 says:

        His first year numbers are very comparable to Prince Fielder’s first full year.

        Santana was one of only four major leaguers to have at least 25 homers, 35 doubles and 90 walks last season.

        The other three? Prince Fielder, Miggy Cabrera, and Joey Votto….what did those 3 guys average making over the 5 year period Santana just signed for? That is a better comparasion than a catcher like Mauer who was never a big power hitter (save one season) or Napoli who was a part-time player a lot of time and only broke out last year.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivalajeter says:

        Hermie, despite putting up nice numbers in your cherry-picked stats, he still had an OPS of about 150-200 points lower than those three guys. Just because they might have been the only 4 players to get past your arbitrary threshold, it doesn’t mean they’re similar hitters.

        Santana’s a good hitter, especially for a catcher. Your post is irrelevant though.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hermie13 says:

        I didn’t cherry pick. That stat line has been posted on every sports site in existence just about. I was simply re-posting it.

        Santana did have a lower OPS…then again, he also was in his first full year whereas Prince was in his 6, Votto his 4th? and Miggy was a vet as well. Was an accomplishment to be in a group with those 3 in your first year.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hermie13 says:

        Again, compare Prince Fielder’s first full ML season with Santana’s. HR/AB rate were nearly identical as were most other important numbers. Fielder was a lot younger, but the arbitration process doesn’t really look at age, rather productivity.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Alan says:

        So you’re re-posting cherry picked stats. I guess that makes it less frowned upon

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hermie13 says:

        And cherry picking one sentence of a post is so much better.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. DrBGiantsfan says:

    It appears that we have started a strong baseball salary inflationary cycle so any statements about discounts or market value are non-operative.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Jim Lahey says:

    Given inflation / the rise of salaries in baseball, they’re saving a bit of money compared to those previous deals.

    I feel like Santana has a lot more going for him than the others did when they signed their extensions – better platform season, more playing time, more HRs.

    Napoli only got his $9.4M this past season after put up a .420 wOBA or whatever ridiculous number he put up. If Napoli was a full time player for the entirety of his playing time, he would have gotten paid a lot more.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Arun says:

      I don’t know about that (Napoli). He cashed in at exactly the right time it seems. If he played everyday, maybe the Angels would have locked him up when they could have/should have.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. J6takish says:

    Is this good news or bad news for Alex Avila?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. aaronjw says:

    As a Tribe fan I get to watch Santana on a daily basis until 2017. He is an elite combination of patience and power. Not bad for a nearly washed up Casey Blake.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Troy says:

    The club option is what really holds the value here. To properly compare the values of the above catchers you need to include the club option plus the post-arb earnings.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. steven says:

    While it would have been nice to lock up more years of his free agency, I think the very first comment rings the truest. When talking about value, everyone gets tied up in relative comparisons. Let’s talk absolutes: You’re paying a 4+ win catcher $21 million dollars through his age 26-31 seasons.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • But he is not a free agent. He is under team control and needs to play quite well to have received that amount through arbitration. Now, the team option certainly does add value to the Indians, so this is a solid deal. Just not some grand bargain.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • larry says:

      Or gets tied up writing about how a team may have paid about $3 million more over the course of a five year contract than the writer believes the team should have paid.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • steven says:

      Let me re-state: relative value is important, but not to the nit-picky degree we are hashing it out at. Because Santana IS cost-controlled, an overpay of 10-20%, if that is your argument, is not a big deal, even to the small-market Indians. That’s maybe $3 million over the course of the contract. Not the same thing as overpaying Jayson Werth 10-20%. Again, look at what is added to the bottom line- a 4+ win player at catcher, in his prime, for $21 million dollars. And Santana’s happy, front office is happy, fans are happy, and money won’t be discussed again for 5 years (and then there’s an option). You’re going to tell me it’s not a sound deal because Antonetti could have eeked out an extra $750k a season?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • steven says:

      Larry said exactly what I was thinking. It’s not so much about Santana as it is the bigger picture- the point of the contract was to lock up a cost-controlled stud. Quibbling over the value of the contract amounts to squabbling over pennies.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Kevin says:

    He posted a .349 wOBA, not a .382.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. TK says:

    McCann is a better overall player than Napoli – I think if the Indians were choosing, they’d rather he turn into McCann.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. BBWizard says:

    If you are trying to determine whether the Indians are saving money through arbitration years, you have picked the wrong comparable players. Both Mauer and McCann signed multiyear contracts, meaning they already took discounts on their arbitration values in order to obtain guaranteed money. Montero and Napoli at least provide players who earned their arbitration values each year. The problem with Napoli is that as a super two player, he earned way above minimum in his 2+ year ($2M), and likely earned more each subsequent year as a result compared to what his salaries would have been if he had only been eligible for arbitration three times.

    Also, as other posters mention, there has to be some accounting for the team option. If Santana is able to put up similar numbers to 2011 over the length of this contract, he will be a valuable free agent. You would not be able to sign a catcher like that in his prime to a one-year contract, at almost any value. The team option gives the Indians that chance.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Billy says:

    The salary listed for Santana on the table totals to 18.8 million, not 21 million.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • kjn says:

      There’s a $1M signing bonus. I’m guessing the rest is covered in the buy out for the $12M team option.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Hermie13 says:

        True, but Brian McCann’s deal included a $1M bonus when he signed his 6 year deal in 2007. However, this article doesn’t include that $1M in his total. There is also a $500K buyout in McCann’s deal, which isn’t included in the $16.8M.

        so either McCann’s total should read $18.3M or Santana’s should only read $18.8M.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. cable fixer says:

    i would have gone the arbitration route. guaranteeing that kind of deal length to a C when I had the option to use arbitration seems unnecessarily risky. C is a tough position and often leaves players open to more catastrophic injury (santana, posey, perez). why give guaranteed years/money to guys like that when you don’t have to?

    also, the indians didn’t get a great discount. santana didn’t seem to be squawking for a longterm deal. frankly, if he continues to produce…he’ll make his money in arbitration and cleveland should happily fork over the dough.


    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Jack says:

    There’s got to be some value in giving one of your best young players an objectively fair deal, with each side capturing some of the value surplus. Cooperative behavior pays off over a series of repeated transactions. Pre-prime players aren’t going to want to commit long-term if they think it usually means playing at a steep discount. The Indians will want to lock down their other young guys both now and in the future, and they probably don’t mind giving up a little on this deal if it enhances their reputation for fairness (making it easier for them to negotiate other long term deals like this one).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. jim says:

    salaries may have changed too much to be able to rule on this either discount of not yet

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Bob says:

    I wonder how many more articles there will be on talented young players signing thru arbitration and not giving a hometown discount? From all the surprise from the writers, you would think that discounts were the rule and not the exception.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense for a player to offer a huge discount, unless they are unwilling to go year to year for some reason. The likelihood of a career ending injury is slim, even at catcher. And a pre-arbitration player who put up huge numbers will benefit thru arbitration, even if they regress (and how many young players plan on that).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Lukehart80 says:

    I don’t know how you can claim they didn’t get any sort of discount.

    If he’d hit actually gone to arbitration all three years, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say his salary for those seasons might have been $7M, $9M, and $11M, substantially more than he’s getting in those three seasons through this contract. That means they got him at a potential discount.

    I realize the other side of things is that catchers usually sign these discounted deals, and so you can compare they discount the Indians are getting to those gained by other teams, but the figures you cite don’t speak to the salary inflation that has happened since those contracts were signed, or that is likely to occur between now and the start of what would have been Santana’s arbitration eligibility.

    The figures you included are also thrown off by including the signing bonus and buyout, which doesn’t seem to have been done for other players (at least some of whom received similar contract features).

    This isn’t the Evan Longoria extension, but it’s a good deal for Cleveland, while providing Santana with financial security for life.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. hmk says:

    i mean, this is a huge bargain for the indians. this article fails to account for the fact that santana is 26, not 21, 22, 23, as most arbitration eligible future studs are. he has arrived, and they just signed him for $21 mil over 5 years? joe mauer got $34 mil for 4 years when he was like 24, and $184 mil when he was 26! what would you rather have:

    Joe mauer (28), $184 million
    Carlos Santana (26), $21 million

    this is a no brainer, slam dunk deal. the indians got lucky it took santana this long to arrive, because they leverage his arbitration position into completely shafting him with this deal.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Fangraphs Rookie says:

    Kind of a general question: Does WAR somehow take into account how much time a player spends at different positions? If not, wouldn’t that throw things out of whack, especially for someone like Santana, who must have produced a significant chunk of his value as a 1B/DH, not catcher?

    I mean in the sense that you couldn’t call him a 3.5-WAR catcher last year, since that’s actually the total amount of WAR he earned playing those other positions, too.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Jay Levin says:

    Yet another clumsy attempt to define contract value, an unfortunate staple.

    Take the comparison with Mauer, which is fairly direct. First, the Twins got a fairly club-friendly deal out of Mauer, which covered all of his arbitration years. The fact that the Twins got a nice deal doesn’t mean that other similar deals are “neutral,” they are also good deals of course.

    Then you add in seven years of salary inflation.

    Then you add in the fact that while the Indians are committing a year earlier, the Twins had to commit an additional $12 million in guaranteed money, the “post-arb” year of that deal, in order to get the same numbers the Indians got for the arb years.

    So the real answer here is that the Twins got a very nice deal for Mauer, and the Indians got perhaps a slightly nicer deal for Santana.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>