The Santana deal, which also includes an option season for 2017, is much more intriguing. In his first full season in 2011, he hit 27 home runs and drew 90 walks. You know how many catchers have hit at least 25 home runs and drawn that many walks? Six. Santana, Jorge Posada (twice), Gene Tenace (twice), Mickey Tettleton (twice), Johnny Bench and Rudy York. Santana hit just .239, so it's possible that he'll be a low-average, high-OBP/power guy like Tenace or Tettleton. That's still an enormously valuable skill set. It's also possible he'll be a .260 or .270 hitter with 30 home runs and 100 walks. That would make him one of the most valuable players in the game, even with lukewarm reviews on his defense.
It's an impressive list, no question. I expanded the scope some (because I like to expand scopes) and looked at catchers with 23-32 home runs and 81-100 walks. This removes Tenace and Tettleton, both of whom drew too many walks to make my list, and York, who hit 33 home runs. This adds Darren Daulton, Mickey Cochrane, Toddy Hundley, Joe Ferguson, and Wes Westrum.
I'm not sure exactly how comparable everyone is. Ferguson and Bench were roughly the same age as Santana was last year, but of course Bench had already been a superstar for years. Ferguson never had another season as good as this one (1973), largely because he couldn't stay healthy.
Santana's new contract looks like a real good one for the Indians. But he's enjoyed one big season and batted just .239 last season, so he's not quite a big star yet. Fortunately, he doesn't have to become a big star to justify his deal.
The Indians locked up one of the best young catchers in baseball, signing Carlos Santana to a five-year deal that includes a team option for a sixth year. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the terms:
Carlos Santana deal worth 21 million for 5 yrs with club option. #Indians
If Santana were a free agent, that's about the same money that he'd get from another team. For the first year. So it sure seems like the Indians got a sweetheart deal for a fantastic hitter in his prime.
Montero and McCann are really good players, but the Indians are gambling that Santana will be more like Mauer and Napoli, truly elite offensive performers. It’s worth noting that Mauer signed a long-term extension while Napoli went year-to-year as a Super Two, meaning he was arbitration-eligible four times rather than the usual three. They ended up making the same amount of money during similar portions of their careers, however.
That isn't to say that Santana is overpaid -- just that he probably would have made something similar if the Indians didn't give him the guaranteed deal. The Indians did get a club option to replace what would have been the first year Santana could have been a free agent, though, so the Indians might end up saving money after all.