Tribe Notes — Should the Indians make a run at Joc Pederson, plus a look at Domingo Santana's fit

Will the Indians make a run at Dodgers' slugger Joc Pederson?

James Rapien
February 10, 2020 - 11:17 am
Joc Pederson and Domingo Santana

Jerome Miron and Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, OH — The Indians are expected to sign free-agent outfielder Domingo Santana this week. The 27-year-old still has to pass a physical, but the Major League contract is expected to be a one-year deal worth more than $1 million.

The report first surfaced in the Dominican Republic, as Yancen Pujols tweeted the news last week.

Santana finished with a .253 (174-for-507) batting average last season with 21 homers and 69 RBI for Seattle. He posted a .253/.329/.441 slash line and was productive for most of the year, before an elbow injury slowed him down in the second half of the season. He had an .850 OPS with 18 HR, 63 RBI and an .286 batting average in his first 88 games last year, prior to the injury.

Santana will join a crowded outfield that includes Oscar Mercado, Delino DeShields Jr., Jordan Luplow and Franmil Reyes.

Both Santana and Reyes have the same profile. They’re 6’5” power hitters that have plenty of talent at the plate, but struggle in the outfield. Santana led the league with nine errors in left field last season.

Even with his shortcomings, bringing in a bat like his could help bolster a lineup that will need to be more consistent in 2020. If the Indians are going to compete with the Twins, who improved their already great lineup, then they’re going to need to be able to win high scoring games, which is something the Tribe struggled with in 2019.

Signing Santana would also be an indicator that the Indians are pleased with what they’ve seen and heard about Reyes’ development this offseason. He dropped 18 pounds and worked on his game at the Indians’ Dominican academy and training facility in San Antonio de Guerra. 

Santana would be a quality addition. He would give the Indians another option at a position that is full of question marks.

Joc Time?

The Dodgers nearly traded Joc Pederson to the Angels last week, but talks broke down and the two teams couldn’t agree to a deal.

The 27-year-old outfielder remains on the trading block. Will the Indians make a run at Pederson?

They may be loaded with outfielders, but most of them are unknown commodities. Does anyone know if Bradley Zimmer or Tyler Naquin can reach their full potential after dealing with injuries in recent seasons? Will Luplow be able to play everyday or is he more of a matchup-based outfielder? Reyes lost weight and hopes to be reliable in the outfield, but is that guaranteed?

Pederson hit .249/.339/.538 with 36 home runs and 74 runs batted in last season. He’s hit at least 25 homers in four out of the past five seasons. He’s set to make a reasonable salary and is on a short-term deal that aligns with the Indians’ plan. Trading for Pederson wouldn’t seriously stunt the growth of outfielder Daniel Johnson, who could get his big league shot this season.

It would give them another reliable and proven option on a depth chart full of question marks. Pederson is known for his power at the plate, but he only committed two errors in 122 games in the outfield last season. He has experience playing all three outfield spots and also made 19 starts at first base in 2019.

The Dodgers and Indians have had trade talks this offseason, including a blockbuster that would’ve sent Francisco Lindor to Los Angeles, but they were unable to agree to a deal. Maybe the two sides can come together and get something done involving Pederson.

If the Indians are committed to signing Santana, then it’s hard to find a spot for Pederson. Would the Dodgers be willing to trade for Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Luplow or Zimmer in a potential deal? It isn’t likely, given their roster and outfield depth. The Indians also have Mercado, Reyes and (potentially) Santana in the mix.

Pederson makes a ton of sense on paper, but Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff would have to make multiple moves or backpedal and not sign Santana to make it work.

Maybe they reach out to the Dodgers, get a deal done and worry about the rest during spring training. Opening Day is still over six weeks away and if the past year taught us anything, it’s that injuries can derail a perfectly good plan.

The asking price for Pederson isn’t high. The Dodgers were reportedly willing to send the slugger to the Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo, who finished with seven home runs and 38 RBI while hitting .238 in 106 games last season. He was the Angels’ 10th best prospect in 2018 before he joined the big league club.

A platoon of Luplow and Pederson would fit well in a corner outfield spot for the Tribe. It would also keep Mercado in center field and give Reyes and Santana a chance to battle for the other corner outfield spot with reliable gloves like DeShields, Zimmer and Allen ready and waiting for their opportunity.

The Indians haven’t made many moves this offseason, but this is something they should consider with spring training starting in one week.

If Pederson can be had for a reasonable price, bringing the left-handed slugger to Cleveland makes all the sense in the world.