Apparently, being on a Las Vegas hospital bed is not an excuse sufficient to prevent Jerry Dipoto from completing a trade as the mercurial, unpredictable and, let’s face it, slightly trade-happy general manager managed to find his Seattle Mariners at the forefront of a yet another headline deal early in the offseason this Thursday evening.
The three-team trade involving the Indians, Rays and Mariners is as follows: the Mariners have obtained veteran 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, a compensatory 2019 draft pick and cash; the Indians receive 1B Carlos Santana, 1B/OF Jake Bauers and cash; while the Rays get INF Yandy Diaz and RHP Cole Susler.
From a Mariners perspective it is nearly impossible to gauge the immediate value of this trade as it is incredibly difficult to predict whether Encarnacion will be in a Mariners uniform next season, or even next week (Santana, indeed, only arrived via trade from the Phillies on December 3rd). What it does do, however, is save the Mariners approximately $9 million while providing them with some greater flexibility with regards to future trades. Were Encarnacion to remain at the Mariners and have a productive season, he is easily the type of player who could be flipped for a sizeable return at the deadline. That said, interest in him remains even at this stage, so nothing can be ruled out. Seattle can only be watched, but with money saving and greater flexibility the aim in the Pacific Northwest at this moment in time, it is difficult to be critical of Dipoto on this one.
From the standpoint of the Cleveland Indians, they could also argue to have benefited from the deal; they are liable for $29 million of Santana’s salary for the remaining two years of his deal, meaning in short they are now liable for an extra $4 million, but are gaining an extra year of control. Santana brings a superb OBP to Cleveland and could well prove an asset to their lineup in the company of powerhouses Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, and projects to play 3B for the Indians with, at this stage at least, Yonder Alonso pencilled in for the job day-to-day at 1B. Jake Bauers, the other part of the trade being sent to Cleveland, slashed .201/.316/.384 in 96 games for the Rays in 2018. He has by no means set the world alight in the big leagues up to now, but there is plenty of time for this to change for the 23 year old. 76 of his appearances in the field in 2018 were at 1B, but he also has big league experience in both corner outfield spots.
Finally, we come to the Tampa Bay Rays who make up perhaps the lower-profile end of this trade in acquiring corner infielder Yandy Diaz and RHP Cole Suser. Diaz slashed .312/.375/.422 in 2018 in 39 games, and the 27 year old projects to have an OBP of around .343 according to Baseball Reference when taking into account a greater number of plate appearances in the coming season, and could be an interesting player to watch in 2019 with the Rays certainly a team to note after they finished their 2018 season so strongly.
In terms of final thoughts on the trade, I don’t think there is a clear winner at this stage. To quote ESPN journalist Buster Olney, I certainly wouldn’t want to bet the family farm on what their opening day 25-man roster will look like, such is the open-mindedness and willingness to trade of their front office staff. The Indians, on the other hand, could argue that they have strengthened their offence and gained an extra year of control from Encarnacion to Santana; however with Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer-related rumours continuing to circle across the winter meetings in the desert, they are also best watched at this stage.
Finally, get well soon Jerry. These trades aren’t going to make themselves you know!