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Could Danny Santana go from minor signing to major trade piece for Rangers?

The Rangers landed a boon when they signed Danny Santana off the scrapheap and saw him turn into a versatile regular and now he could be a big trade option
Credit: AP
Texas Rangers' Danny Santana leaps to slide into third after he hit a triple against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

DALLAS — What you could have been reading before the All-Star Break was that the month of July, one way or another, was going to be a proving ground for the Texas Rangers. With the exception of the brief two-game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks, every single game in the month of July following the All-Star break is against the American League West. 

A split to Houston was survivable. Losing both to the Diamondbacks was one wheel coming off. Being swept by Houston lit the match. Losing a series to Seattle was the equivalent of spraying an aerosol can into that match and onto the Texas Rangers’ 2019 season. 

As more teams and more players start being mentioned specifically by the national writers, the fate of this season’s team is even more evident. The injury and subsequent surgery for one superstar complicates matters even more.

Would You or Wouldn’t You: Trade Danny Santana

Why You Would: In case you hadn’t noticed, Danny Santana has somewhat quietly been the right there among the Rangers’ best players this season. If you look at Baseball Reference, Danny Santana is second among position players in Wins Above Replacement – only to Joey Gallo. Joey Gallo is now on the injured list with a broken hamate bone. Danny Santana is now, for all intents and purposes, the best player on the Texas Rangers.

Let that sink in.

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Over 74 games, Santana, a former Minnesota Twins star, is sporting a .316/.348/.561 slash line. (Editor's note: This was written before Santana went off with a 3-for-5 night with six RBI and and grand slam in Oakland on Thursday night.) 

He’s done so while playing every position except for catcher and third base. The Rangers have had him taking grounders at the hot corner too. The Rangers are enjoying the fruits of Santana's renaissance on nothing more than a late winter minor league contract offer they extended after Santana managed just a .567 OPS in 15 games for the Braves in 2018. 

The advantage that Santana has over his other position player trade potentials is that his skillset can play extremely well in the National League. That expands the list of potential suitors for the Rangers’ super utility player. 

Rumor has it that the Cubs are hoping to be able to bring Ben Zobrist out of retirement for one last stretch run starting in September. The National League Central, though, is one of the tightest divisions in baseball. What if the Cubs decide that they don’t want to wait until September 1st for Zobrist, especially with St. Louis coming on strong and the potential of Milwaukee around the corner? 

Santana has a great amount of value as a utility player, but still isn’t going to net a top prospect return. He’s probably going to get you better than your usual depth piece though. Between him and Logan Forsythe, Santana is the more attractive and more likely to be traded. If you’re the Rangers and need to rebuild the depth in your system, you evaluate your best offers for Santana and you move him.

Why You Wouldn’t: As mentioned earlier, Joey Gallo is going on the injured list with a broken hamate bone. He’ll be out for a month. Yes, while you have Logan Forsythe on the team to fulfill a utility role, Forsythe can’t play the outfield positions that Santana can. Gallo’s absence reduces the center field depth considerably. The only player on the active roster that can play centerfield on a regular basis is Delino DeShields. If anything happens to him, and Texas opts to trade Santana out, untested Zach Granite is the only option on the 40-man for Chris Woodward. In a losing season, that’s probably not the focus, but there’s more to it.

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Having Gallo out removes a significant offensive chunk from the lineup. If you trade Santana away, you truly have nothing to play with in August. Those on “Team Tank” might advocate the thought of “Who Cares,” but the team isn’t going to subscribe to that. The Rangers can still play spoiler, they can still play for something and from what we’ve seen from Chris Woodward, this isn’t the type of team to just throw in the towel. 

Beyond that, Santana has years of cheap contract control transferred to Texas when they signed him. If they believe this season isn't a fluke, they could hold onto Santana and keep him around for the next time they're deep in contention in the autumn months. Santana is in a weird spot where his value to the Rangers might be higher than his value to an industry that had left him out in the cold looking for work until January of this year. 

Nevertheless, just as the team is going to play Gallo when he comes back, no matter how far out of it they are, the organization owes it to the fans in its final season at Globe Life Park to put out a competitive team until the bitter end. 

Danny Santana is going to be forced into the middle of the lineup. With Gallo out, Pence likely to be traded, and now Nomar Mazara’s name being thrown out there as trade bait, Danny Santana may just have to be a designated survivor of the 2019 Texas Rangers.

Should the Rangers cash in on their small investment of Danny Santana and look for a big reward or should they keep their found money acquisition and build upon it in future seasons? Share your thoughts on the trade deadline options with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.