Eight years ago today the Dodgers traded the Guitar for a Beard
With trade talk swirling around, it was exactly eight years ago today when the Dodgers traded lower level prospect Carlos Santana to the Indians for Casey Blake. It was a trade that paid immediate dividends for the Dodgers as Casey Blake played a key role in the 2008 Western Division champions, but at quite a price.
Andrew Grant of TrueBlueLA wasn’t a fan and neither was I since Carlos Santana was one of my favorite prospects. At the time he was very underrated, but I had been following him since he first showed surprising power and patience for a Dominican. He had struggled for the Great West Loons but had bounced back big in the California league. Many discounted his resurgence and simply attributed it to the hitters league he was playing in. Those Santana critics would soon learn how wrong they were.
Santana continued to hit in the minors but it took until 2010 before he reached the major leagues for good. The Indians wanted him to be a catcher so he had to spend more time in the minors learning the craft of catching. Carlos had originally been a 3rd baseman, played some outfield, but it was not until 2007 that they moved the 21-year-old to catcher. When he was traded in 2008, Carlos had barely been at the position for a year and many felt he would never stick. They were wrong until they were right.
By 2011 Carlos Santana was the full-time catcher for the Indians but the critics were right and by 2013 the catcher experiment was given up on. Over his career, Carlos has played 376 games at 1st, 330 games at catcher, 26 games at 3rd base, and 186 at DH. Going forward it looks like Carlos will be splitting time between 1st base and DH. All the while that Carlos was moving around the baseball diamond, with the bat he has done two things quite well. Take a walk and hit a home run.
Though I first noticed that Santana had unusual patience as a 20-year-old prospect even I’ve been shocked at how he has turned into the most prolific walker in baseball during his career. Using 2011 as the starting point, because that is when his career started, Carlos Santana is the only player to have walked over ninety times, five times. Not Joey Votto, not anyone can make that claim. Carlos has walked more than anyone but Joey Votto during his run.
Since 2011 there are only eight players who have walked at least 400 times and hit at least 100 home runs. Every one of these players is considered one of the top players in baseball. Except one. Carlos Santana. With good reason, because those are the only two skills that Carlos Santana has. Hit a home run, take a walk. As you will note his OPS is almost 100 points below everyone else on the table.
He’s the outlier.
But he’s still had one hell of a career and is easily the best Dodger prospect ever traded this century. Or is he?
As good as Santana’s career has been the fact he had to move from catcher to 3rd to 1st to DH has diminished his value. If he had been able to stay at catcher he would have been quite the valuable asset, but as a 1st/DH, he’s just holding his own. Thirty years old now, Santana has probably already seen his best years, but no one can argue they have not been effective years.