The Phillies agreed Friday to a three-year, $60 million deal with free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana. The move signifies the organization believes it can be competitive in 2018.
The deal is pending a physical and has not yet been confirmed the Phillies.
The 31-year-old owns a career .365 on-base percentage and likely will take over starting duties at first base, meaning Rhys Hoskins will presumably transition to an everyday left fielder.
The signing is surprising as prior to this point general manager Matt Klentak acknowledged a desire to avoid longer-term deals so as to get a better handle on how the youth scattered around the Phillies roster would perform.
The addition of Santana and presumed move of Hoskins to left field means the club could move either Nick Williams or Aaron Altherr in a deal to secure a starter pitcher.
"The most important thing we can do is let these kids continue to play," Klentak said this past week at the Winter Meetings. "They were pretty darn good when we gave them a chance to play."
The addition of Santana doesn't fit within that strategy, but it signifies a confirmation from the organization that the rebuild is complete.
For now, it seems Williams, Altherr, Tommy Joseph, and Cesar Hernandez are available for the taking, assuming the Phillies land a young starter that can remain under team control for several years.
Santana hit 23 homers last season and has a 121 career OPS+. His $20 million annual average value is the Phillies largest for a position player since Ryan Howard, but he's a legitimate threat in the middle of the order and can offer protection to someone like Hoskins.
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BY PATRICK GORDON
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