Santana is expected to open the year as Cleveland's designated hitter, MLB.com's Mandy Bell reports. The Indians have a couple sluggers (Santana and Franmil Reyes) who would ideally be deployed at DH, but Santana is the worse defender of the two. He will need to hit out of the gate to continue getting regular starts at DH, as the Indians have players like Jake Bauers, Bradley Zimmer and Bobby Bradley waiting in the wings.
Manager Terry Francona did not express concern over Santana's poor performance at the plate during spring training, Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Santana collected only five hits while striking out 10 times in 25 plate appearances before spring training was put on pause. However, Francona cited his bat speed and defensive play as reasons for optimism, despite his poor performance at the dish. Santana is projected to be the team's starting left fielder, and his path to playing time got clearer after the club sent Bobby Bradley to the minors Thursday.
Santana agreed to a major-league contract with the Indians on Wednesday, Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The deal won't be official until the 27-year-old passes a physical, but he's poised to join the Indians after being non-tendered by the Mariners in December. Santana had a .253/.329/.441 slash line with 21 home runs and 69 RBI in 121 games last season, but he missed about a month with an elbow strain and continued his career-long struggles defensively. Cleveland is without top-level talent in the outfield, so Santana could certainly carve out a sizable role with a decent showing in spring training.
Santana wasn't tendered a contract ahead of Monday's non-tender deadline, Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports. Santana will become a free agent after the Mariners declined to tender him a contract. He slashed .253/.329/.441 with 21 home runs, 69 RBI and eight stolen bases over 121 games a season ago.
Santana (elbow) won't return to the starting lineup until the weekend series in Baltimore, Corey Brock of The Athletic reports. Santana returned from the injured list Tuesday, but he's expected to limited to pinch-hit duty for his first three games back. He'll be a designated hitter when he first returns to the starting lineup.