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Storylines: Francona names Santana regular third baseman

Storylines: Francona names Santana regular third baseman
Carlos Santana will get an opportunity to show what he can do on an everyday basis at third base. (Photo: Indians.com)
March 26, 2014
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In this MLB News and Notes segment, I will be giving occasional reports on the latest news and rumors throughout the MLB. I also will try to tweet news and rumors as I see them, so feel free to follow me on Twitter: @ajnicholsIBI.

Here are the stories from Tuesday, March 25th.

Tribe News

  • The major news of the day came from Cleveland, when manager Terry Francona told reporters that Carlos Santana will be his regular third baseman, and will not be part of a platoon. Santana will also be the team's backup catcher. The decision to give Santana the job has forced incumbent third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall into somewhat of a bench role. Chisenhall could see time at both third base and DH, but he also mentioned that he will be ready to play anywhere, including the corner outfield.
  • Francona also announced that Jason Giambi will be added to the 40-man roster and put on the Major League disabled list. Giambi, who suffered a fractured rib, will be eligible to come off of the DL on April 5th.
  • In his final chance to prove he deserves a spot in the Cleveland rotation, Josh Tomlin logged 6.1 solid innings in a 5-0 loss to Texas on Tuesday. Tomlin surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out five. Nick Swisher and Elliot Johnson each had two hits, including a double each.

Others News and Notes

  • Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reported that the Rangers have interest in acquiring Cubs backup catcher George Kottaras in the wake of the Geovany Soto injury. Buster Olney also tweeted that Texas may have interest in Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli. According to Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel, the Rangers have also been scouting Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks. Texas lost their starting second baseman Jurickson Profar for at least 10-12 weeks with a shoulder injury.
  • The Pirates acquired starter Vance Worley from the Twins for cash. Worley was the Opening Day starter for Minnesota last season, but was outrighted to the minors last week.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Mariners want to find a right-handed bat and they may not trade coveted infielder Nick Franklin unless they get one in return.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweeted that the Rangers are working on a deal with starter Scott Baker, who was released by the Mariners. Cotillo also tweeted that the Padres have signed Jeff Francoeur to a Minor League deal.
  • Veteran lefty Randy Wolf asked for and was granted his release from the Mariners. Seattle had originally told Wolf he had made the team, but wanted him to re-do his Minor League deal to allow for a later opt-out date. Wolf didn't feel comfortable with the Mariners wanting to re-do his contract, so he instead asked for his release.
  • The Phillies and veteran Bobby Abreu agreed to push his opt-out date back from Wednesday to this coming Sunday.

User Comments

Themaven
March 26, 2014 - 11:42 PM EDT
The best (sole) reason to play Santana at third is to get a better bat than Chisenhall,Aviles, Johnson or Giambi into the line up,otherwise you could just play those guys at third like they did last year and have marginally better defense than Santana will give you.
So short of dealing for a bat, the move makes no sense,especially against LH pitching.
Hermie13
March 26, 2014 - 4:15 PM EDT
@TheMaven

And while Bourn is out, one of Aviles/Johnson may be in OF replacing Morgan in the lineup (Morgan is a guy that probably should be platooned too).
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 4:15 PM EDT
Actually, I expect the Indians to use lefties as an opportunity to rest Santana some and have him DH then with Aviles at third. Don't see the problem with that as that was the setup last year. Granted, Aviles is not my favorite player, but the third base decision they made really has no bearing on the setup against lefties.
Themaven
March 26, 2014 - 4:05 PM EDT
Against lefties with Santana at third the DH options are Aviles or Johnson.
Or lose the platoon advantage and play Murphy in right and have Raburn DH.
Or bat Chisenhall against lefties.
So you'll end up DHing a guy with a better glove to play your DH/back up catcher at third to gain what exactly?......Continuity?

I'm mystified.
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 3:03 PM EDT
Why would Francona not be able to replace Santana late in the game? If he is catcher, then can pinch run for him and insert Gomes as catcher. Or they can just put in Gomes as a defensive replacement if needed. If Santana is at third base, they can pinch run for him with anyone and then insert Aviles or Johnson or Chisenhall at third. If the concern is losing your backup catcher in the 8th or 9th inning, well, that often happens for every team when they make late inning pinch running or defensive substitutions. Really nothing different there.
pathofkindness
March 26, 2014 - 2:49 PM EDT
If Santana is the regular at 3B, and the only back-up catcher, this significantly restricts Francona's late inning options, i.e. he's not going to be able to pinch run for him, but most importantly, he's not going to be able to replace him in the field. Maybe Terry thinks that's no big deal, or at least worth it...

I have to say that I felt a whole lot better about this lineup with Santana as the primary DH. But maybe I have an inflated view of Chisenhall's near-term upside. I will be surprised if he's sent down to AAA again, especially after his good spring.

Maybe Raburn is the primary DH and has a great year, but he's had a heck of a time staying healthy and is really only one year removed from what was a complete disaster of a season.
Hermie13
March 26, 2014 - 2:34 PM EDT
The one guy from the mentioned group I would be a bit surprised to clear waivers would be Justin Sellers. Has an option and can play short. If David Adams couldn't clear waivers, gotta figure someone would grab Sellers. Would be a bit surprised if he was DFAed (though not shocked).
Hermie13
March 26, 2014 - 1:36 PM EDT
Tony....yeah I should have picked up on that as a typo.


Also....am I the only one worried about how bad Santana will be behind the plate for the 40 or so games he plays this year? Was already one of the worst back there when he was focusing on the position...now his main focus is supposed to be on 3B....
Seth
March 26, 2014 - 12:04 PM EDT
The bigger issue is, who gets the at bats at DH? I would imagine the beneficiary is Raburn to start the year, but the whole thing with Raburn last year was he performed better, and stayed healthier, as a part timer. After Raburn, the next est hitter on the roster ... is probably Chisenhall. To me, it looks like they are giving away many runs defensively, because I think Santana will be a very poor fielder, to keep Carlos happy, while also downgrading the offense by giving more at bats to Giambi and Aviles. Santana DHing about half the games and catching and playing some 3b and 1 b the rest of the time seems like a much better idea. If Santana is somehow an average defensive 3 b, after being a well below average 1 b and C, then I guess it's not a bad move.
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 12:04 PM EDT
Santana had over 30 games in winter ball and between the games there, especially in a much higher pressure environment playing there in the playoffs than ML spring training and even ML regular season games, he proved a lot to people. His work before games was good too. There are a lot of people that think he is at least an average defensive 3B right now with the potential to be plus. So, yes, he is as good or better than Chisenhall who only grades out as average at best. Santana obviously is still learning some things and will probably make some mistakes as he completes the transition, but the belief is he can no doubt handle the position just now they need to know if he can handle it on a daily basis. That's what we are about to find out.

And Chisenhall can certainly go to Columbus and prove some things. He needs to play everyday against left-handed pitching and really work on improving his performance in that area. And his defense needs work. The unfortunate reality is he just may be what he is right now, which is why he might end up as a corner utility guy in the future. But there is no reason to rush to that conclusion right now as he has an option remaining, can play third base everyday, and be a fallback if Santana struggles or gets hurt.
Seth
March 26, 2014 - 11:55 AM EDT
Santana's as good or better defensively? We don't have enough of a sample to say, but I can't imagine that's remotely true. I have seen Santana catch and play 1b, and run the bases, and I would think at 3 b it would be Miguel Cabrera, except more throwing errors. I remember seeing Trevor Crowe in spring training in 2010 and thinking he was a decent CF .. when I saw him play everyday it quickly became clear he was terrible.
Brandon
March 26, 2014 - 11:51 AM EDT
Tony, Admittedly, I've only seen Santana take about 5 grounders this spring, but do you really think Santana is as good as or better than Chisenhall at 3rd? Chis is probably below average, but I didn't think Carlos was that advanced already.

And there's nothing left to gain by sending Lonnie to AAA. Might as well see if he can help us as a Lefty PH, cuz his future in Cleveland is looking bleak.
yourtribe
March 26, 2014 - 10:12 AM EDT
No brainer and said so two months ago. Lonnie has not proven to be an everyday player yet. No reason one of your best hitters should bounce around the diamond because Lonnie has 3d locked up for no reason.
Lonnie has hit AAA so sending him down does nothing. He may be another laporta?
Hope I'm wrong on Lonnie but I see a below avg major leaguer.
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 10:08 AM EDT
I think there is a solid chance any of those guys clear waivers, especially Hynes and maybe even Herrmann.
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 10:05 AM EDT
That was a typo on my part, meant "now" and not "not" in regard to the focus is NOW on third base full time.
John L.
March 26, 2014 - 10:03 AM EDT
Tribe could actually start season with a 9 man bullpen (which may be overkill) if they keep Salazar off the roster until his first start the second week of the season. This is really only if Tomlin wins a spot over Carrasco in the rotation. Then in the pen you could have the 6 already given spots along with Carrasco, Blake Wood, and Scott Atchinson. Just a thought if they have to keep CarCar in the pen.
Walter
March 26, 2014 - 9:49 AM EDT
With Giambi, Morgan, and probably Atchison needed to be added to the 40 man roster do you see Hynes, Herrmann, Barnes and possibility Sellers DFA? Will any clear waivers or do Indians expect to lose some of these players to other teams? Who do think they would lose out on?
John L.
March 26, 2014 - 9:35 AM EDT
Call me crazy but I really though Bryan LaHair had a chance to be the lefty bat off the bench (instead of Chisenhall) when Giambi got hurt. He would have needed to be added to the roster so that could have played a role(plus he didnt see too much action as he recovered from an injury early in the spring) but they made a spot for Nyjer Morgan which I was kind of surprised at since they have Brantley and Elliott Johnson(& Aviles) already able to play CF in Bourn's absence. I'm assuming we are starting the year with an 8 man bullpen so I wonder if it's a relief pitcher or Nyjer that gets sent down along with Chisenhall when Bourn and Giambi are ready to be activated.
Hermie13
March 26, 2014 - 9:25 AM EDT
" The focus is not on playing third base full time"

How is the focus no on playing 3B full-time? Thought that's the whole point of this experiment...to see if Santana can play there full-time?

In any case, I don't see how playing multi-positions is easier than focusing on just one position, even catcher. Agree the demands are different in Santana's case...the demand is actually greater. At least in Gomes's case he actually had MLB experience at 3B. You're asking Santana to learn a new position essentially on the fly...while batting cleanup. Just don't see how that is ok but batting your everyday catcher cleanup is frowned upon.


In any case....decision appears made. Josh Donaldson gives me hope for Santana's transformation to a 3B, though Donaldson also had experience at 3B prior to being thrown into the fire last year....he also didn't catch a game (and only caught 25 total in 2012)...
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 9:03 AM EDT
My comment on Gomes is the Indians wanted him to concentrate only on catching and do nothing else. Also with Santana, they did not want their catcher to be the cleanup hitter as they felt it was too much to ask of a guy who has a lot of responsibility handling and running a staff. Playing Santana everyday at 3B and a spot start here and there at catcher as the backup is a completely different scenario. The focus is not on playing third base full time and not catcher full time, so the demands of the position are different.
Hermie13
March 26, 2014 - 8:52 AM EDT
Agree on Chiz too....if Santana is the "everyday" 3B then I'd rather see Chiz in AAA. Granted he probably is our best DH option right now (well really he's our best 3B option but o well) but once Bourn is back Raburn could see more time there even against righties.

Interesting comment by Francona. Mentioned on here before that I wouldn't mind seeing Chiz get some time in the corner OF spots. He's more athletic than some give him credit for. Not expecting him to be a gold glover out there but could be a Michael Cuddyer-type that could play 3B, cOF, and 1B.
Hermie13
March 26, 2014 - 8:50 AM EDT
"Also, maybe it is just me, but I don't see it being too much of a problem playing third base on a regular basis and 2-3 times every 10 games playing catcher."


I absolutely hope you are right here Tony. But really worry that having him bat cleanup, start at a position he's never played in a big league game...AND catch 1-2 times a week is asking an awful lot. Seem to recall you saying it was a bad idea to play Gomes at 3B a few games a year as it was putting too much on a guy that needs to focus on catching....but yet having Santana do it and bat in a more critical spot is a good idea?

My hope is that this experiment does end up working out (would not be opposed to Santana being the 3B long-term) and that once Santana shows he can handle 3B defensively (something he hasn't come close to doing) the Tribe then gets a real backup catcher and takes away Santana's catchers mitt for good.

Small sample sizes...but Santana's bat in both winterball and spring training was less than overwhelming while learning the new position....really hoping this doesn't carry over into the regular season...
Walter
March 26, 2014 - 8:48 AM EDT
I think Chisenhall's future to be a major league player might have to include learning to play another position. Learning the outfield either LF or RF might not be a bad idea. Looks like he willing to do anything to help the team.
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 8:36 AM EDT
I am totally on board with Santana at third, but not sure I see the point with Chisenhall on the roster right now. Obviously he is on the roster because the Indians want the lefty bat off the bench because Giambi is not there and because Bourn is out. But it will be interesting to see not only how Chisenhall is mixed in but Aviles as well. They really can't take Santana off 3B with a lefty on the mound as you want Gomes to catch and have your offense optimized with as many RHed hitters as possible. So it looks like they will sit Gomes and rest him 1-2 times a week when a righty is starting. Chisenhall would be the obvious choice for 3B there....but Aviles also has to play and to me is more important in Francona's mind to play.
Big AL
March 26, 2014 - 8:27 AM EDT
It's simple guys Santana plays 3-4 times a week at third, 1-2 DH, and 1-2 catching. This guy has averaged 149 games played the past three years with over 60% of those games being the catcher.

Regardless of how contrived his time share between the three spots is, it'll be easier than get pounded behind the plate every other day. Lonnie can split between third base, DH, and the bench. They're giving him a chance to prove himself without over committing to him. I like it.
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 8:24 AM EDT
Not all minor league contracts have opt outs right away. Some players get an opt out at the end of spring, some not until May or June. Also, players will sign a minor league contract where they believe they have the best chance to get on the ML roster at some point.
Walter
March 26, 2014 - 8:22 AM EDT
When a major league player signs minor league contract with chance to compete in spring training to win a roster spot, and than he does not make the 25 man roster, he usually will opt out of contract looking for another major league job. Why do they sign another minor league contract with another team when they had same contract with original team?
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 8:21 AM EDT
Also, maybe it is just me, but I don't see it being too much of a problem playing third base on a regular basis and 2-3 times every 10 games playing catcher. It would be one thing if he were bouncing around at a new position every night.....but from what I can tell first base will only be an option for him in an emergency. Swisher is playing first base 140-150 games and DHs the others.
Tony
March 26, 2014 - 8:18 AM EDT
Not sure why it doesn't make sense for Santana to play third base. He's already as good or better defensively. They know he can play third base, but the only way they know if he can be a full timer or a part timer there is by playing him there every day for a month or two when the season starts. You can't determine it any other way. Chisenhall should be in Columbus once Bourn and/or Giambi are activated from the DL. If Bourn or Giambi had not gotten hurt I think he would have been optioned out.
Brandon
March 26, 2014 - 1:16 AM EDT
Chisenhall should never see the outfield. It makes much more sense to move Swisher to OF, Santana to 1B and Chis to 3rd.

I bet Raburn will gain a lot of at bats from Chisenhall's "demotion".
pathofkindness
March 26, 2014 - 12:52 AM EDT
It doesn't make sense to me either. But Francona has a much better baseball mind than I do, that's for sure. It seems VERY unconventional to have a position starter as your only backup catcher. Maybe someone's done that before, but I can't remember ever seeing that. Seems like it would also be kinda tough on Santana, but Francona must think that he'll do ok w the back and forth transitions. Seems weird. Can Elliot Johnson catch?

Chisenhall had a good spring and I hope that he will still get a good number of at bats...one thing this does do is take the pressure off of Lonnie. This kind of approach w young players is something we've seen Francona do before. He did a similar thing last year with Santana, refusing to bat him fourth and catch at the same time...still...?
Seth
March 26, 2014 - 12:11 AM EDT
Unless the Indians plan on signing Morales and trading Chisenhall, I don't understand how Santana is the regular 1st baseman. Francona has mostly done things that make sense to me. The Santana-as-starting-3b, makes no sense.

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