LAS VEGAS -- Much of the talk that surrounded the Indians entering the 2018 Winter Meetings revolved around Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. But when Cleveland announced its three-team trade Thursday morning, it did not involve either of its starting pitchers.
The Indians acquired Carlos Santana from the Mariners in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion and sent Yandy Diaz to Tampa Bay for Jake Bauers in part of the three-way deal.
"Obviously giving up Jake in this deal is not easy to do," Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom said. "We love Jake and feel really strongly about him, too. That was just the price we needed to pay to get Yandy. We thought, all things considered, it was the right thing for us to do. It's good for our roster going forward."
After donning an Indians uniform for his first eight seasons in the Majors, Santana will have a homecoming in 2019. The 32-year-old spent his '18 season in Philadelphia after being signed as a free agent last December. The infielder slashed .229/.352/.414 last year with 24 homers and 86 RBIs. He was traded by the Phillies to the Mariners on Dec. 3 for shortstop Jean Segura, right-hander Juan Nicasio and lefty James Pazos.
The Indians have multiple decisions to make at first base. One option would be to split time between Yonder Alonso and Santana at first and DH. However, dealing Diaz to the Rays leaves a hole at third that Santana, who made 19 appearances at third last season, could also fill at times.
Diaz, 27, appeared in 39 games for Cleveland in 2018, hitting .312 with 15 RBIs. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said earlier this week that the team would feel comfortable with the young infielder getting over 500 plate appearances next year, but now the acquisitions of Santana and Bauers bring both experience and flexibility to the roster, respectively.
The Indians' payroll has been one of the most discussed topics this offseason. Dealing Encarnacion erases the team's largest contract with the designated hitter to make $21.67 million in 2019 as opposed to Santana's $17 million.
Overall, the Indians will shell out a few extra bucks on Santana over two years ($35 million, including $500,000 buyout in '21) than they would have with Encarnacion (approximately $25 million with $5 million buyout in '20), but it returns a player with whom Cleveland is more than comfortable.
According to a report by MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal, the Indians will receive $6 million from the Mariners, leaving Cleveland with $29 million of Santana's contract.
The Indians' first-base decisions continue with Bauers, who played mainly first base and some outfield for the Rays last season. After getting the callup to the big leagues in June, Bauers, 23, hit .201 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs in 388 plate appearances. Bauers could take first, but he would most likely end up as a much-needed option in the Indians' outfield to fill the vacancies left by multiple key outfielders who filed for free agency.
"Jake's pretty special to us," Bloom said. "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."
Seattle will also receive Cleveland's 77th pick of the 2019 Competitive Balance Draft, and Tampa Bay will acquire a player to be named later.
Mandy Bell/

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