Santana was viewed by many as a possible Plan C should the Red Sox fail to sign either J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer, who are widely considered the top free agents available this offseason. As such, Santana signing with the Phillies inherently puts more pressure on Boston to secure the services of one of the aforementioned sluggers or another player capable of providing the offensive boost the Red Sox desperately need after hitting an American League-low 168 home runs in 2017.
Interestingly, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported Friday the Red Sox actually offered Santana a three-year contract, though it apparently paled in comparison to Philadelphia’s offer, which also includes a $17.5 million club option for the 2021 season, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. This seems to suggest that Boston actually had legitimate interest in the longtime Cleveland Indians first baseman/designated hitter and weren’t simply kicking the tires for the sake of covering their bases.
Santana, a switch-hitter, doesn’t offer the same power as Martinez, an outfielder by trade, or the same defensive prowess and batting average potential as Hosmer, a four-time Gold Glove first baseman. Plus, he’s entering his age-32 season, whereas Martinez and Hosmer are 30- and 28 years old, respectively.
But Santana represented a cheaper alternative — Martinez and Hosmer are expected to sign five- or six-year contracts in excess of $100 million — and his consistency and durability over the last seven seasons are matched by few players across Major League Baseball. Having him on the back burner was a nice luxury for the Red Sox, who at the very least could use Santana’s availability on the open market as a negotiating chip in their discussions with agent Scott Boras, who represents both Martinez and Hosmer.
The Red Sox’s best course of action might be to remain patient, especially with regards to Martinez, who seemingly has less suitors than the younger, well-rounded Hosmer due to his own defensive deficiencies and, to a lesser extent, his injury history. Martinez, a designated-hitter-type, ultimately might need the Red Sox as much as they need him. Boston can’t sit around forever, though, and watching another team move quickly on a potential target must kill Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who in the past has shown a desire to address needs directly and in a timely manner.
Basically, the Phillies just made life a little bit more complicated for the Red Sox, especially if Martinez and/or Hosmer increase their demands based on Santana reportedly receiving $20 million annually, which is more than most predicted for him going into the offseason.