Tribe Brings Santana Home as Part of Three-Team Trade Thursday

In the final moments of this year’s Winter Meetings, the Cleveland Indians swung a three-team trade, sending Edwin Encarnacion and a Competitive Balance Round B pick in the 2019 draft to Seattle and both Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser to Tampa Bay in exchange for the Mariners’ Carlos Santana, the Rays’ Jake Bauers, and cash.

The wild offseason for Santana continued as he was traded for the second time in less than two weeks. Last winter was eventful for the longtime Indians slugger as he hit free agency and signed a big pact with the Phillies, but after one season in the City of Brotherly Love and the emergence of Rhys Hoskins as an everyday first base option there, Philadelphia dealt Santana to Seattle as part of the package to acquire shortstop Jean Segura.

The moves come as the Indians continue to find ways to shift money around and improve their team’s chances for success in 2019. After clearing the money owed to Yan Gomes off of the books already, the Tribe was active in trade talks throughout the week. The majority of those talks centered on Cleveland’s starting pitching depth, in particular Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, but as the week ticked away, the names of Encarnacion and Diaz were linked in deals with the Rays.

The Mariners coming into play was the more surprising piece, as Seattle has spent this offseason purging money and stars from its roster. Heading into the day Thursday, the Mariners had already dealt catcher Mike Zunino, ace James Paxton, pitchers Alex Colome, Edwin Diaz, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos, second baseman Robinson Cano, and shortstop Segura in parts of five separate trades. Santana, who came over in the Segura trade, was not viewed as a long-term fit for the Mariners after their salary purge, and ten days later he was back on the move.

In Santana’s first big league season outside of Cleveland last year, the 32-year-old switch-hitter put up a .229/.352/.414 line with 24 homers, 86 RBI, and 110 walks. He spent his first eight MLB seasons with the Indians.

Encarnacion – Getty Images

Encarnacion now heads to the Pacific Northwest after spending a pair of productive seasons in the middle of the Indians lineup. Heading into the last guaranteed year on his three-year contract signed with Cleveland, the move of Encarnacion frees some money up for the Tribe with the differences between his contract and that of Santana. The Indians also get younger, as the soon-to-be 36-year-old Encarnacion heads into the final years of his career.

Encarnacion remained a productive weapon in the Tribe’s lineup last season, slashing .246/.336/.474 with 16 doubles, 32 homers, and 107 RBI in 137 games. It marked the sixth time in seven seasons that the slugger had toppled the 100-RBI mark.

He may not stay in Seattle long, either, especially given a quote from the Mariners’ assistant general manager Justin Hollander after the deal on Thursday.

“If we have an opportunity to speed up the timeline on our stepback, we’ll do what is best for the Mariners in the long run,” shared Hollander on “We’re trying to make the long run shorter. Trying to condense that timeline of when we’re ready to contend. So if we can pick up an asset that helps us going forward, we’ll do that.

“I know people have said ‘you’re tearing it down’, but we want to have good players on our team and be representative and try to create a positive environment. Edwin Encarnacion is a really good offensive player. It creates flexibility for us, and also it gets the comp pick for us. We wouldn’t have done the deal without the draft pick.”

The other half of the trade brought to the Indians the young Bauers, a 23-year-old first baseman and corner outfield option. A left-handed hitter who was a seventh round pick in the 2013 draft by the San Diego Padres, he made his MLB debut last season in 96 games for the Rays, slashing .201/.316/.384 with 22 doubles, two triples, eleven homers, and 48 RBI.

Last year was his most prolific from a power perspective, as he combined to hit 36 doubles and 16 homers, both single-season highs, in his combined work between Tampa and Triple-A Durham. He struggled some adapting to big league pitching, but has shown an ability to hit for a good average in his six seasons in the minors, where he owned a career .276/.361/.414 slash.

Bauers was twice named an Organization All-Star for the Rays in 2016 and 2017. He was part of the seven-player Wil Myers trade between the Rays and Padres in December of 2014. He was added to the Rays 40-man roster for the first time last November as the club looked to protect him in the Rule 5 draft.

He was thought to be a leading contender to be the Rays’ starting first baseman for 2019, as the path was cleared when the team cut ties with C.J. Cron earlier this offseason.

“Jake’s pretty special to us,” said Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom on “Our high opinion of him doesn’t change. He’s a competitor who can hit, and he’s a pretty good defensive first baseman. We like him a lot. The Indians are getting a hell of a player, and it’s going to be fun to watch his career progress.”

The addition of Bauers cost the Indians the fan favorite Diaz, who has been unable to crack the lineup regularly at third base over the last two seasons, especially with the presence of Jose Ramirez at the hot corner. While the 27-year-old Diaz has shown himself capable at the minor league level, there have been questions about his defensive game and he does not bring the style of bat to the plate that is typical of a third baseman. In 299 career MLB plate appearances over the last two seasons, he has just 17 extra base hits, including 13 doubles, three triples, and one home run. He has been a productive hitter in his opportunities at the plate for the Indians, owning a .283 lifetime average after hitting .312 in 39 games last season. Within the organization, he had simply become a man without a position, and now will get a regular shot with the Rays.

Sulser, initially reported as the player to be named later in the trade, is a 28-year-old right-hander who was selected by the Tribe in the 25th round of the 2013 draft out of Dartmouth. He has spent five seasons working in the Cleveland farm system (he missed all of 2015) and had spent the majority of the last two seasons at Triple-A Columbus. He has spent the last two seasons working exclusively as a reliever after beginning his professional career as a starter. He was not protected by the Indians with a place on the 40-man roster and was not selected during the Rule 5 draft.

His time at Columbus last season was met with some difficulties, as he posted a 4.53 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in 41 games. While those results may have left something to be desired, he has been one of the top strikeout per nine guys in the team’s farm system over the last few years. He put up a 13.6 K/9 mark with Columbus and a 17.0 K/9 line with Double-A Akron in six games to end the year with a 14.1 average. He has averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings throughout his minor league career.

The Competitive Balance Round B pick dealt by the Indians is scheduled to be the 77th pick in the 2019 draft. The Rays sent $5 million to the Mariners as part of the trade and the Mariners will send the Indians $6 million to help with the remaining $35 million on Santana’s contract. It is believed the payment from the Mariners will come in two separate chunks over the next two years.

The Indians and Mariners had to fight through some significant obstacles to construct the trade, as the Cleveland front office was on its way back from Las Vegas while former Indians pitcher and current Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto (with the help of his assistant GM) completed the deal from a hospital bed in Nevada after dealing with blood clots in his lungs at the start of the Winter Meetings.

Photo: Getty Images

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