The Cleveland Indians have agreed to a five year contract extension with catcher Carlos Santana. The deal will cost the team $21 million over the five years of the deal, and buys out all three of his arbitration years, as well as one year of free agency. There is also an option for a sixth year in the contract.
Santana was off to a rousing debut in 2010 with the Tribe, but was injured 46 games into the year and missed the rest of the season, finishing with an .868 OPS in those 46 games. Last season, he was back full-time for Cleveland, and played in 155 games at age 25, a good omen for a young catcher. He had an .808 OPS, and led the Indians with 27 home runs. The only player more valuable than Santana for the Indians last season was shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who got a two year extension last weekend.
The money in the deal seems like it’s perfect. Santana will likely make under a million dollars next season, as the year is still pre-arbitration for him. Each season after that will result in the money going up, and I’d expect him to top out at maybe $7 or $8 million a season, which is more than reasonable for a young catcher. The deal will take Santana into his early 30s, when he’ll likely be finishing up his useful years as a catcher.
The obvious template for this signing is the Brian McCann contract with the Braves, signed prior to the 2007 season. McCann’s deal was for six years and $26.8 million, with a $12 million option for year seven. In comparison, the McCann deal looks even better than the Santana deal despite also buying out the three arbitration years and a year of free agency. McCann was 23 when he signed his deal, compared to 26 for Santana. Good lord, while the deals are similar in overall value, the Braves got a complete steal in retrospect with their signing.
But back to Santana. Even if he’s only a two win catcher (which seems very low after his three win season last year), he’d still be worth it at a max of $8 million a season (which isn’t even confirmed). A two win catcher is still in the top half of the league, and a three win catcher is a top ten guy. Based on what Santana could probably make as a maximum, it’s a steal for a top ten player at the position.