This is one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
Carlos Santana was the leadoff hitter for a team that came within a game of a World Series title and has 278 home runs in his 13-year MLB career. He helped bring the Seattle Mariners back to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, providing 15 home runs in the second half of the 2022 season.
He’s been there before and still has some gas left in the tank, signing a one-year deal with the Pirates worth $6.75 million in November. Even entering his age 37 season Santana is a talented defender, playing 655.1 innings at first base last year with four defensive runs saved.
Santana is a switch hitter, but he hits left-handed the vast majority of the time. As such, his average should benefit from MLB banning the shift. Even though he’s another year older, Santana could be due for positive regression. His .209 batting average on balls in play with the Mariners in 2022 was the worst in all of MLB among qualified hitters.
Santana can platoon at designated hitter with right-hander Andrew McCutchen, but he can also split time at first with Ji-Man Choi.
Along with McCutchen and Rich Hill, Santana fits in as the Pirates try to complete their youth movement with the help of veteran leadership, setting an example for inexperienced players on and off the field. He’s a quiet, team-first player, not known to savor the spotlight or make a scene. One of the few examples of Santana making headlines off the field was when he played for the Phillies in 2018.
With the team eliminated from postseason contention after a second half collapse, other players had mentally checked out and were sneaking down to the clubhouse to play the video game Fortnite while their teammates were playing on the diamond. ‘Slamtana’ responded by destroying the offending television with a baseball bat, telling ESPN that “we come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren’t worried about it. [Players] weren’t respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the [front] office. It’s not my personality. But I’m angry because I want to make it good.”
One shudders for Rodolfo Castro’s cell phone.
Santana wants to win, but he also takes pride in mentoring young players. While the Mariners acquired him from Kansas City to fill in as Ty France recovered from an elbow injury, Santana described himself as there to lead the younger players.
This is me. This is my personality,” Santana said. “I try to help the younger guys, I try to help my team win the game…we need to play together and think about winning the game and making the playoffs.’ That’s why Seattle brought me here, to help the younger guys.”