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Red Sox made offer to Carlos Santana, but Phillies were a better deal

Carlos Santana hit .259 with 23 home runs last season.
Carlos Santana hit .259 with 23 home runs last season.(File/Tony Dejak/AP)

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According to a major league source, the Red Sox made a three-year offer to free agent Carlos Santana this week, before the first baseman agreed Friday to a three-year, $60 million deal with the Phillies.

The Red Sox’ offer, according to the source, was not in the same range as Philadelphia’s, and so a deal between the sides was never considered close.

The Sox’ offer was characterized as the equivalent of sticking a toe in the water — with a sense the team was interested, but not necessarily looking to consummate a deal before advancing talks with the team’s primary free agent targets.

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Santana represented arguably the most attractive free agent alternative to J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer, both of whom are expected to see paydays this winter in excess of $100 million over at least five years.

Santana, 31, is a player with excellent contact and walk rates, as well as average to above-average power and strong defense. He hit .259/.363/.455 with 23 homers last season, and .259/.366/.498 with 34 homers in 2016.

His line-drive swing is more typically associated with the top of the order (he often batted leadoff for Cleveland) or the No. 5 or 6 slots rather than the prototypical middle-of-the-order bat the Red Sox have been seeking.

Part of the appeal of Santana was not just his overall skill set but also the fact that, as someone who would make less than Martinez and Hosmer, he would have provided the team with greater financial flexibility.

Moreover, his three-year-deal entails less long-term risk than what a team will assume to sign Martinez or Hosmer. Both of those premier free agents remain available, and the Red Sox, according to another major league source, have remained engaged with their agent, Scott Boras, since leaving the Winter Meetings.

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Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on twitter at @alexspeier.