Tuesday’s MLB: Royals, 1B Carlos Santana agree to 2-year, $17.5M deal

Dave Skretta
Associated Press

Kansas City, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals and first baseman Carlos Santana have agreed to a $17.5 million, two-year contract that plugs one of their biggest offensive holes while providing some clubhouse leadership for a rebuilding club.

The 34-year-old Santana was an All-Star two years ago in Cleveland, when he hit a career-best .281 with 34 homers and 93 RBIs. But he slid to .199 with eight homers and 30 RBIs while playing 60 games during the shortened 2020 season, resulting in the Indians declining his $17.5 million option for the upcoming season.

Carlos Santana joins the Royals.

He gets $7 million next season and $10.5 million in 2022, and his salary would escalate by $250,000 each time he becomes an All-Star or wins a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger.

Santana could earn $250,000 in performance bonuses next year: $25,000 for 300 plate appearances and each additional 25 through 525. He could earn $750,000 in performance bonuses for 2022: $75,000 for 300 plate appearances and each additional 25 through 525.

The Royals were in the middle with a .244 team average last season, but they hit just 68 home runs and were tied with – coincidentally – the Indians for the sixth-worst scoring offense in the majors.

“One of our objectives this offseason was to add a middle-of-the-order bat, someone that would blend in well with our current group, make us a lot better,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “Carlos certainly does that.”

Santana should fill both an offensive need and defensive hold for the Royals. They had been toying with the possibility of moving Hunter Dozier to first base, but that would merely create another vacancy at third base and in the outfield, where they already have one to plug following the retirement of left-fielder Alex Gordon.

“He was one of the primary targets for us when we began to make offseason plans,” Moore said. “You know, once we began our season, we started talking mid-to-late July (about) players that would potentially fit for us. Carlos’s name was at the forefront of that based on the opportunity that we perceived that would perhaps present itself for us – middle of the order, switch hitter, highly professional. Winning-type player.”

The Royals are very familiar with Santana from his time in the AL Central. He hit 216 homers with 710 RBIs during 10 seasons with the Indians, and he’s been durable in playing at least 143 games every season but his rookie year and this past season, when he still suited up for every game for Cleveland.

Another bonus? The Royals won’t have him in the other dugout anymore. Santana has hit .288 with 31 homers and 93 RBIs in 151 career games against them, the best of any team in the division.

The Royals also had the inside track on negotiations because Rene Francisco, their vice president and assistant GM, signed Santana as an amateur free agent when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2014.

“That made the start-up of the conversation go extremely well,” Moore said.

For years one of the quietest teams in free agency, the Royals have been on an early spending spree under new owner John Sherman. Relief pitcher Mike Minor signed an $18 million, two-year deal and outfielder Michael Taylor a $1.75 million deal for next season, and nearly all their arbitration-eligible players are under contract.

That includes an $8.05 million contract for slugger Jorge Soler and a $3.35 million deal for staff ace Brad Keller.

“I’ve said many times, ‘Free agency is a flawed way to build your team,’” Moore said. “That’s why this offseason we’ve tried to do it from the top down. We’ve tried to add some guys that had a little more impact. Two-year deals, we have a little more flexibility in 2022 than we have in 2021, just because of the economics of the game, but financially we’re in a position to add a little more money, a little more flexibility in the payroll.”

White Sox add Eaton, Lynn

The Chicago White Sox reunited with outfielder Adam Eaton and finalized a trade with the Texas Rangers for workhorse starter Lance Lynn.

Eaton agreed to a one-year deal that guarantees him $8 million and fills Chicago’s hole in right field, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the move has not been announced. Eaton’s salary for next season is $7 million. The White Sox hold an $8.5 million option for 2022, with a $1 million buyout.

The signing of Eaton comes one day after the White Sox agreed to acquire Lynn from Texas for pitchers Dane Dunning and Avery Weems.

Eaton played for Chicago from 2014-2016. He was dealt to the Washington Nationals at the 2017 winter meetings for current ace Lucas Giolito, Dunning and pitcher Reynaldo López. That trade happened a day after the White Sox sent former ace Chris Sale to Boston for infielder Yoán Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech, launching a rebuild that helped vault them to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008. Chicago finished second in the AL Central at 35-25.

Eaton spent four years with Washington and helped the Nationals win the World Series in 2019. They declined their option on him after he hit .226 in 41 games last season.

Eaton replaces Nomar Mazara, who struggled last season after being acquired from Texas. Eaton figures to play alongside Gold Glove center fielder Luis Robert, with slugger Eloy Jiménez in left and Adam Engel likely the fourth outfielder.

Lynn is reuniting in Chicago with new manager Tony La Russa. Lynn spent his rookie season with the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the Rangers in seven games. That was La Russa’s last season as a manager before the White Sox hired him this offseason.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Lynn was 22-14 in 46 starts the past two seasons for the Rangers, with 335 strikeouts over 292⅓ innings. The right-hander has an $8 million salary in 2021, the final season of a $30 million, three-year contract he signed with Texas two winters ago.

Hammerin' Hank accolades

First basemen Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and José Abreu of the Chicago White Sox have won Hank Aaron Awards as the outstanding offensive performers in each league as voted by MLB.com.

Freeman, 31, was second in the NL in batting .341, OBP (.462), slugging percentage (.640) and OPS (1.102).

The 33-year-old Abreu hit .317 with 15 doubles, 19 homers and 60 RBIs during 60 games in the pandemic-shortened season.

Abreu was voted AL MVP and Freeman won NL MVP.

Around the horn

Right-hander Matt Wisler agreed to a one-year, $1.15 million contract with the Giants. He became a free agent last week when the Twins failed to offer him a contract for next year. Wisler, 28, went 0-1 with a 1.07 ERA and one save over 18 outings with four starts covering 25⅓ innings for Minnesota.

... Free-agent catcher Luke Maile and the  Brewers finalized a one-year contract that pays an $825,000 salary while in the major leagues and a $275,000 salary in the minors.

... Outfielder Brian O’Grady and the Padres agreed to a contract that pays $650,000 in the majors and $300,000 in the minors.

... Dick Kaegel, who covered the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals and edited The Sporting News during a career of more than 53 years, has won the Hall of Fame’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.