Veteran first baseman and designated hitter Carlos Santana has made a habit of switching teams quite a bit during his productive major league career, but his latest move caught him a bit off guard.
The Milwaukee Brewers acquired Santana in a trade Thursday that sent minor leaguer Jhonny Severino to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The move takes Santana from last place to first place in the NL Central.
“A little surprised,” Santana said on a conference call. “Most of the time, a team doesn’t try to move a player to the same division.”
Santana, 37, hit .235 with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 94 games for the Pirates, who have slipped off significantly after a fast start. He also leads all major league first basemen with six defensive runs saved, according to FanGraphs.
His career has also included stops in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Seattle.
“We value what he does on both sides of the ball,” Brewers president of baseball operations Matt Arnold said. “That has been our DNA all year. We talk about adding offense. I think we all want to try to add a bat, but I don’t think we want to do it at the expense of our defense either. I think that has been a strength of ours. With someone like Carlos, we felt like we were able to check a lot of boxes there.”
The Brewers lead the NL Central despite ranking 25th in runs scored, thanks in large part to a lack of production from first base and designated hitter spots all season.
First baseman Rowdy Tellez is hitting .213 with 12 home runs, down from 35 last season, and has been on the disabled list for the past three weeks. Tellez had 17 stitches removed this week from his left ring finger, which he suffered a lock fracture when he got stuck on the outfield wall while playing fly balls in Cincinnati. Tellez was already on the disabled list with right forearm swelling when he hurt his finger.
The Brewers acquired Jesse Winker from Seattle this offseason with the intention of making him their primary designated hitter, but he’s hitting .199 with just six extra-base hits (five doubles and one home run) in 197 plate appearances. Winker’s extended drop has caused his playtime to drop significantly.
Milwaukee’s acquisition of Santana indicates the Brewers’ intent to improve their roster this summer in an attempt to make up for last year’s slump.
The Brewers had a 57-45 record and a three-game lead in the NL Central race last year when they traded four-time All-Star closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres, a move that it shocked both the clubhouse and the fans. base. The Brewers went 29-31 the rest of the way and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
The Pirates signed Santana to a one-year deal in the offseason, hoping his veteran presence could provide stability to a young roster trying to learn how to win. Pittsburgh got off to a 20-8 start but has stumbled for most of the last three months.
Santana could be the first of several Pirates who could be on the move with an unlikely shot at the postseason. Pitcher Rich Hill, who like Santana signed a one-year contract in the offseason, could be attractive as a contender. The Pirates also have a pair of young All-Stars on the roster in closer David Bednar and pitcher Mitch Keller, who are both affordable and under team control, making them a potentially attractive target for teams in the middle of the playoff chase.
Severino, 18, has played 12 games this season in the Brewers’ Rookie-level Arizona Complex League. He has hit .250 with a .289 on-base percentage, four home runs, 10 RBIs and five steals while playing both shortstop and third base. The Brewers signed Severino out of the Dominican Republic last year.
“He walks in the door and he looks like someone who would be a free safety at the University of Alabama,” Arnold said. “He’s that kind of athletic physical specimen. He is big. Big shoulders. He can barely get through the door. He runs fine. He has the opportunity to play on the ground. He has power. All the makings of a guy you’d hope to get. Honestly, they should be happy with his player. He is a really interesting prospect. We know that he is far away, but again, we know that we have to give up some quality to access a player like Carlos Santana.”