The Los Angeles Dodgers are heading into the 2014 season with most of their roster ready but still have some holes to fill. We continue to take a look at available players that could have an impact next season.
Today, we take a look at a veteran, utility player that can help the team out by occupying a bench role:
Santiago is a 34-year-old that can play three infield positions and that has spent the last eight seasons with the Detroit Tigers. In his career, he has a .243 batting average with 548 hits in 12 seasons with two teams.
The right-handed hitter hit .224 with 14 RBI in 80 games for the ALCS runner-up. He played second base, shortstop and third base and started 56 games.
Santiago can play three positions in the infield, making him a solid bench player with versatility. The Dodgers will need to spell starters Alexander Guerrero, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe and could use Santiago in place of any of those three, especially after the departures of Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston, Jr. Santiago is used to filling in and getting spot starts, so he would be a perfect candidate.
The 34-year-old is a solid defensive player and could come on in later innings as a defensive replacement to give manager Don Mattingly a sure-handed infielder. In his career, he has been worth plus-21 runs defensively at second base, third base and shortstop. His best positions are up the middle, where the Dodgers have two fielders that are not known for their defense.
The Dodgers would prefer a player that will come in and know his role, much like the utility players did last season. Santiago would provide a veteran presence in the locker room that would help the younger Latino players. He’s been around winning locker rooms with the Tigers and knows how to conduct himself with that winning attitude.
Although his versatility would be helpful, Santiago isn’t known for his hitting. He hit just .224 last season after hitting .206 in 2012. Santiago has had some decent success at the plate in his career but has declined the past two years. The Dodgers may be satisfied with his defensive prowess; however, it would be preferred to find a player that can handle the bat a bit better.
Santiago also doesn’t have much speed, making him less desirable off the bench in pinch-run situations. He wouldn’t be able to come in and change the game with his speed, unlike some utility players. The Dodgers may not need him to fill that role with Dee Gordon competing for a bench role, but added speed is something the Dodgers could enjoy.
The Dodgers have emphasized the idea that they are trying to get younger, so the 34-year-old may not fit in with that philosophy. Young players like Gordon and Justin Sellers that can play multiple positions might be enough to persuade them to stay away from Santiago.
Santago’s made $2.1 million the past two seasons and should remain in the market for about that much. He’ll likely ask for a two or three-year deal worth anywhere from $1.5-2.5 million per year. Santiago may have to settle on a one-year deal because of his struggles at the plate the past two seasons.
Chances Dodgers Sign Him: 20%
The Dodgers should give Santiago some consideration, as he fills a need and has been a productive backup player in his career. If the team decides to stay with the youthful approach, then Santiago may have to find elsewhere to provide his services.
Look for Santiago to find a job soon because he is one of the best utility players still on the market.
ICYMI: The Dodgers and J.P. Howell agreed to a multi-year deal earlier this week