Anthony Santander tore the cover off the baseball in July. Will the Orioles look to trade him?
As the trade deadline approaches within the next 24 hours, the Baltimore Orioles have now made one significant move and with the surprising success the team has had this season, many wonder whether the Orioles will be buyers or sellers. I have given my opinion earlier in July as to what I believe the Orioles should do at the deadline and that opinion has not significantly changed.
Coming into August, the Orioles sit at 51-51 after a disappointing series against the Cincinnati Reds in which they lost 2 of 3 to one of the worst teams in baseball. The Orioles are also three games out of a wild card spot with series against the struggling Rangers and Pirates coming up which could make or break the Orioles’ Postseason chances.
Despite the struggles in Cincinnati over the weekend, Anthony Santander had an impressive offensive weekend in what could have been his last games in an Orioles uniform. Santander is a player that has been rumored to potentially be on the move and he has only helped his trade value in the past several weeks in a year where teams may become increasingly desperate as the deadline approaches.
Obviously, the premier trade target for any team that needs a corner outfielder is Juan Soto who, if dealt, would likely bring in the largest haul for any individual player at the deadline in MLB history. Ever since turning down a large contract extension from the Washington Nationals, Soto has been rumored to be a likely trade candidate at the deadline but there is certainly no guarantee that he will be dealt since he still has several more years of control and the Nats are not required to get rid of him. Whether or not Soto is dealt, only one team can benefit from his services, and any other team that cannot obtain Soto might be willing to overpay for an outfielder like Santander.
As mentioned earlier, Santander has helped his trade value in the past several weeks as he has had a slash line of .417/.447/.778 for an OPS+ of 235 since the All-Star Break along with four home runs and 15 hits in only nine games. In July, Santander hit .316/.369/.547 for an OPS+ of 155 in 24 games to improve his season OPS+ to 125. Being a switch hitter also adds value for a team looking to acquire Santander as he hits well from both sides of the plate and has traditionally had more power from the left side. This ability allows Santander to be an everyday player for a World Series contender as long as he stays healthy.
Another factor that boosts his trade value is the reports that he has recently been vaccinated for COVID-19, which allows him to travel to Canada and play the Blue Jays in Toronto. Santander, along with Keegan Akin, were the Orioles who were unvaccinated when the Orioles traveled to Toronto in June but both players have since received the vaccine.
From the O’s perspective, a trade of Santander would show a clear indication that they are not planning to compete for a playoff spot this season and are looking towards the future. Santander is under team control through 2024 but will become increasingly more expensive as he works through his arbitration eligibility. Santander also has less versatility and less defensive value than Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins who are already impact players in Baltimore as well as several young prospects such as Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, and recent draft pick Dylan Beavers.
A trade of Anthony would allow for Kyle Stowers to get regular at-bats for the Orioles and may even open the door for Terrin Vavra to become an everyday player. Stowers is a left-handed hitting outfielder who made his MLB debut in Toronto when Santander could not travel with the team and has hit well throughout his minor-league career. A second-round pick out of Stanford in 2019, Stowers has hit .263/.358/.536 in Triple-A Norfolk this season with 17 home runs and 43 extra-base hits in 80 games. At first, he would likely platoon with Ryan McKenna or Tyler Nevin at a corner outfield position if Santander is gone after tomorrow, but if Stowers continues to rake at the big league level, he could likely join Mullins as an everyday player from the left side of the plate.
Will Anthony Santander finish the season as an Oriole?
If the Orioles do decide to move on from Santander, they could see a nice return from a team that needs a boost to their offense. As of right now (5:00 EST on August 1st), there have been three “blockbuster” trades. One saw Luis Castillo go from the Reds to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects and the other saw Josh Hader move from the Milwaukee Brewers to the San Diego Padres. Late in the afternoon, the New York Yankees acquired Frankie Montas from the Oakland A’s.
The Reds got a somewhat surprisingly nice return in the Castillo deal, including the Mariners’ top two prospects according to MLBPipeline. Obviously, a trade of Santander alone would not bring in nearly that amount of value, but it is realistic to expect that the O’s could get a top-10 prospect from another organization. Obviously, Mike Elias is not looking at prospect rankings when making decisions but we know that he will want players that he values highly and will likely want players who are close to being impact players at the big league level.
Whether or not the Orioles decide to move on, it is clear that Santander has helped himself over this past month and all season as he has become arguably the best hitter in the Orioles lineup and has had much improved patience and continues to be a prolific power hitter. With his third year of arbitration on the horizon, he should be paid quite well next season, whether that be by the Orioles or another franchise.