After consistent production, is Santander an easy arbitration decision for O's?

According to the Orioles postseason media guide there are seven hitters in the American League the last two years that have produced 250+ hits, 150+ runs, 100+ walks, and 60+ homers.

The list includes Houston’s Yordan Álvarez, Boston’s Rafael Devers, Adolis García and Corey Seager of Texas, the New York Yankees Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles and one other player. The Orioles’ Anthony Santander. That is one solid group of hitters he is keeping company with.

For me being on that list and for other good reasons, makes it a no brainer that Santander is offered salary arbitration by the Orioles this winter, as his salary is due to rise from $7.4 million this year to $12.7 million next season via projections.

There may have been a time a few years ago that Santander would have priced himself out of Baltimore at that dollar amount. But barring something that would be a real stunner, this is not that time. They still need this guy.

There may have been a time when a player just one year before free agency – as Santander is now – might look to be traded by the club. Get something for him before he can leave, is that thinking. But don’t they need this bat right now? Even, in a worst-case scenario and he did leave via free agency after the 2024 season, don’t the Orioles badly need Santander to keep winning next year? To make another postseason run?

I say they do and while his name will likely come up in some trade discussions, that bat still looks pretty good in the middle of the Baltimore order.

If the O’s did deal Santander, it would no doubt be in a deal bringing something they really need on their roster next year. And then they would have to try and replace his production or gamble that one of their young players like Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, or Kyle Stowers could replicate a large percentage of that production.

Santander’s OPS plus was 120 last year and 121 in 2023. He topped that just once before – in the pandemic shortened 2020 season. This year he played in 153 games and took 656 plate appearances. He hit .257/.325/.472/.797 with 41 doubles, a triple, 28 homers, 81 runs and 95 RBIs. He set career highs in hits, doubles, extra-base hits, runs and RBIs and tied his career high in walks. For the second year in a row, he posted an above average walk rate of 8.4.

He finished third in MLB in doubles and ranked seventh in the AL with 70 extra-base hits. That total for EBHs is tied for second-most by an O's switch hitter in team history with Eddie Murray (1980) and Brian Roberts (2005); Roberts owns the record with 73 in 2009.

Santander became the first Oriole with 40+ doubles in a season since Manny Machado (40) in 2016 and is the first O's switch hitter with 95 RBIs since Bobby Bonilla (116) in 1996. His 61 home runs over the last two years lead MLB switch hitters. And he is the first O's switch hitter with 85+ RBIs in back-to-back campaigns since Murray (1982-85). He’s hit 25+ homers in each of the last two seasons, joining Murray (1977-80, 1982-85, 1987-88) as the only switch-hitters in Orioles history to accomplish the feat.

Santander, who also was the Orioles' Heart and Hustle Award winner, turns 29 tomorrow. He’s in the prime of his career and might even have another gear he can go to with his offense. If that happens in 2024, shouldn’t it happen in an O’s uniform?

The guy has become a clubhouse leader, is popular with fans and has become a fixture in the middle of the O’s order. Even with that in mind, the O’s have decisions to make. There will be trade possibilities and those young players are about ready for regular playing time.

He now has a price tag as high as it's ever been, but Santander is also still a great fit for the 2024 Orioles.

Just for fun: Click here to look back at a fun article I wrote in August with Santander. When the Orioles were in Seattle in August, I interviewed him about his link and relationship with another Venezuelan. That was former Mariners pitcher Félix Hernández, who was going in the Mariners Hall of Fame while the Orioles were at T-Mobile Park.

That day Santander told me something I did not know. That he was once a top young pitcher in Venezuela. And he was once compared to the great Félix. Santander was convinced if he ever made pro ball, it would be on the mound.

“I was around 13 playing in a tournament in Venezuela,” Santander recalled during the August interview. “At that time some scouts started to watch me. Everybody was starting to compare me to Félix Hernández. Was pretty great then at pitching and hitting but the pitching - was able to throw hard at that time and had a good changeup and curveball. Back then, I knew just a little bit about Hernández but when I learned more that was pretty cool to be compared to him. I loved pitching at that time. It was an honor to be compared to him.”

Santander would develop elbow issues as a teenager, then learned to switch-hit at age 15 (he was a natural right-handed hitter) and the rest is history.


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