Monday, May 8, 2017

Braves Acquire Danny Santana Among Monday's Moves

By Keith Allison on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It was an off night for the Braves, but they still were busy with a trade, a player optioned, and a player released. Let's look at each of these moves.

First, the Braves traded Kevin Chapman and some cash to the Minnesota Twins for Danny Santana. I was never enamored with Chapman after the Braves acquired him late in spring training. He was "just an arm" who the Braves took a chance on because he was left-handed. He had a bad ERA in Gwinnett, but a good FIP/xFIP. Despite that, he was heading nowhere and is unlikely to be anything more than Quad-A depth for the Twins.

So, let's look at Santana. A switch-hitter, Santana burst on the scene in 2014 with a strong .319/.353/.472 slash that included a 3.2 fWAR. Santana also added 20 steals in 24 opportunities. He split time between shortstop and center field and wasn't particularly gifted at either. Still, when you come out of the minors with just a couple dozen games above Double-A and post a .362 wOBA and 132 wRC+, people will take notice.

The problem was...he wasn't that good. That's not a slight, it's just a fact. Remember Chris Johnson's big 2013 when he became the BABIP God? He received that moniker because he had an unsustainable .394 BABIP. Santana was a similar case in that his BABIP was .405 in 2014. He swung at everything and despite average contact rates, the balls kept finding holes. Santana was never this kind of prospect in the minors with a wOBA personal-best of .338.

Predictably, Santana fell flat the following year. He would bat an abysmal .215/.241/.291 with a negative fWAR. I wish I could say he rebounded in 2016, but he continued to disappoint. He also missed significant time with a strained right hamstring, a strained left hamstring, and finally a left-shoulder sprain that ended his season. So far this season, Santana was posting a .255 wOBA in 26 PA as he struggled to find much playing time.

How does Santana fit in for the Braves, who immediately added him to the active roster for tomorrow's game? That's a fair question. Santana is not a big bat who will give the Braves much of a lift, nor become an obvious choice to DH in upcoming games in AL parks. He is essentially a younger Emilio Bonifacio at this point. He plays all of the positions on the infield except first base and can play all three outfield positions. He's not great at any of these, mind you. His shortstop numbers are especially bad.

For a team that needed a bat or two for the bench, Santana is just not that guy. He carries a 3.9% career walk rate, which is not much better in the minors, along with a 23.3% strikeout rate. His ZiPS projection for the rest of the season looks like .259/.290/.375 - which might be a bit too optimistic. Now, certainly, there is a chance he catches fire and has a nice little run, but it seems optimistic to believe that's possible.  Santana, who was designated for assignment by the Twins when the Braves traded for him, is out of options.

To make room for Santana, Lane Adams was optioned. Adams was already one of the Braves' top pinch hitters after going 2-for-8 in the role and he had already added a pair of steals. Overall, he was 3-for-9 (all singles) during his brief run in the majors. He was on fire before being called up, slashing .333/.352/.588 with Gwinnett.

Honestly, folks, I'm not getting this move. Is Santana better than Bonifacio? Sure. I'll go with this hot take - he's a better Bonifacio. That's fine for the 25th guy on the team, but now the Braves are getting multiple Bonifacios. Was Adams the answer? Probably not, but at least he had been recently successful. While the Braves didn't lose much of anything by trading Kevin Chapman, I don't believe they gained much either. Perhaps this deal is a precursor to another move or two. At least, I hope it is.

Finally, the Gwinnett Braves welcome Lane Adams back, but say goodbye to Ryan Howard. The Braves and Howard gave it a shot, but Howard looked lost against Triple-A pitching. In eleven games, the former Subway spokesman had just seven hits, all singles except for one homer. He hit .184 with two walks and eleven K's. He also played just one game in the field. All in all, it wasn't working. This could be the end of the line for Howard or he might try to make it work somewhere else. I liked this signing when it happening, but it clearly wasn't working.

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