Santana has hit well in the early going, picking up seven hits in 20 at bats for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. However, he's committed three errors at his new position in just five games.
The Indians would obviously like to keep Santana's bat in the lineup as often as possible. The 27-year-old is a career .254/.367/.455 hitter and has been worth over three wins above replacement in each of the past three years. He had a tough year behind the plate in 2013, throwing out just 11 of 62 base stealers and posting -12 defensive runs saved (DRS).
The emergence of Yan Gomes complicated the Indians efforts to maximize Santana's value. Gomes was excellent in 2013, both in the field and in the batter's box, where he hit .294/.345/.481 in 88 games. His improvement certainly wasn't a problem in and of itself, but it did result in Cleveland affording him just 322 at bats during the season in the club's efforts to get Santana plate appearances.
Moving him to third would allow Gomes to catch regularly while keeping the team's best hitters in the lineup.
Last season, Indians third basemen combined to hit .218/.274/.364 as a group. General manager Chris Antonetti didn't have many more appealing options available to address that issue this winter. So, it appears as though the club will ask Santana to attempt a position change.
This maneuver has worked for other clubs in the past. Giants' third baseman Pablo Sandoval came up through the team's system as a catcher, but has only appeared behind the plate in 14 games for San Francisco. The conversion has worked out surprisingly well for Sandoval. He's managed to play the position passably and has become to be a force in the middle of the Giants' order while also opening up catching duties for Buster Posey.
Cleveland can only hope their experiment with Santana turns out as well, but if he can find a way to avoid defensive catastrophe at the hot corner, the Indians will have a much more well-rounded lineup.