Carlos Santana at 3B, Rhys Hoskins at 1B, Bryce Harper in the Outfield?

Updated: 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday night, the Phillies won their first series over any team other than the Marlins since July 25.

Carlos Santana started and played all nine innings at third base.

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The more the Phillies use Santana at third base in a race to win the NL East, the more realistic it seems that we could see him play there next season. It's a more logical and probably more fruitful possibility than eating some of his contract to trade him.

This creates some interesting offseason dynamics. If the Phillies feel comfortable enough with Santana at third base, they could move Rhys Hoskins back to first base and have a natural spot for impending free agent Bryce Harper. (This would obviously mean a trade of Maikel Franco or more of a bench role.)

I've been on record this summer saying I expect Harper to sign with the Phillies. Odds released Wednesday by Bovada have the Phillies as the fourth-most-likely team to land Harper, behind the Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees, in that order.

Playing Santana at third base obviously would not be ideal. But it could be the most ideal setup the Phillies can piece together in 2019 if it means adding Harper and putting Hoskins back at his natural position. The Phils would be worse defensively at third base but better defensively in the corner outfield.

And they'd clearly be a much-improved offensive team.

Could the Santana-third base experiment carry over into next season?

"We're looking at it as a possibility to see how comfortable we feel with it," manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday. "So far, it looks fine, but we're not going to cover this with a blanket.

"We don't ever expect him to be the best third baseman in baseball, we're just looking for him to catch the ball because we're optimizing for other things.

"I think he's done an admirable job over there under the circumstances. I don't think there's been a whole lot of action that would give us one feeling one way or the other. I think he's caught all the balls that have come his way. There haven't been a whole lot of opportunities for him to range left or right or towards home plate or behind him."

Santana has started just 32 of his 1,065 major-league games at third base. Six of them have come this season with the Phillies. He's played 49 innings there, error-free, after playing 226 innings at the hot corner for the 2014 Indians.

An example of what the Phillies would lose defensively with Santana at third: Last Friday night in the Phils' 14-2 win over Miami, J.T. Realmuto hit a sharp grounder directly at Santana, a potential 5-4-3 double play. Santana bobbled the ball momentarily before firing a strike to second base. The return throw to first didn't result in a double play, the way it likely would have if a more sure-handed third baseman started it.

But, again, under that scenario, the Phillies would have a substantially better lineup. You could be looking at a lineup with Harper batting second, Hoskins at cleanup and Santana in the five-hole. A team can win a division with Santana as its third- or fourth-best offensive player, despite how many Phillies fans feel about him.

The other component of this is that in order to play Santana at third base, you better have an above-average defensive shortstop. Scott Kingery has improved defensively at short but he's not yet an above-average defensive shortstop. There isn't much evidence at the major- or minor-league level that J.P. Crawford can be an above-average defensive shortstop. He flashes brilliance but also makes too many errant throws on routine plays.

Finding that shortstop may require some creativity. Aside from Manny Machado, the best free-agent options are Freddy Galvis, Alcides Escobar and Jose Iglesias - defense-first players who can't hit.

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