Major League Baseball’s winter meetings ended with a bang on Thursday, as the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays worked out a three-team trade.

Indians Rays Mariners trade
Carlos Santana will be rejoining the Cleveland Indians following a blockbuster three-team trade with Tampa Bay and Seattle. (Image: Kathy Willens/AP)

The deal sees Carlos Santana end up back in Cleveland, while Edwin Encarnacion went to the Mariners and the Rays picked up young prospect Yandy Diaz.

Cleveland Cuts Payroll, But Not Production

The three teams were able to help each other meet some key goals, including offering some financial help for the Indians.

Cleveland has been looking to shave their payroll for the 2019 season, and did so by moving Encarnacion, who was owed $25 million in the coming year. Even taking back Santana – who is making $17 million himself next season – saves about $8 million for the team, all without sacrificing any production, as the two players are expected to put up similar numbers in 2019. Santana had played the entirety of his career with the Indians before joining the Phillies last year as a free agent.

The Indians also picked up $6 million in cash from the Mariners (with $5 million of that sum first moving from the Rays to Seattle). In addition, Cleveland picks up prospect Jake Bauers, a 23-year-old first baseman who struggled in his first year in the big leagues with Tampa Bay.

For Seattle, the trade is another sign that the franchise is in rebuilding mode. It was no surprise that the Mariners found a way to deal Santana, a player that had just joined the roster in the trade that sent Jean Segura to the Philadelphia Phillies. What was less expected was that he would be dealt for an even higher-priced player in Encarnacion.

That said, the salary hit only comes in 2019, as losing Santana means they save $18 million in 2020 payroll. Encarnacion himself could also be traded before the season begins, with many teams looking to pick up a power bat at first base or designated hitter.

Seattle also picked up a competitive balance draft pick from the Indians. That now gives the Mariners four of the top 100 picks in the 2019 amateur draft.

Rays Trade One Prospect for Another

Finally, the Rays essentially flipped Bauers for Diaz. While the 27-year-old Diaz is four years older than Bauers, Tampa Bay is apparently high on the Cuban infielder. One big reason for that optimism might be the fact that Diaz hits the ball extremely hard, even if he hasn’t lifted the ball enough to hit home runs at this point in his career.

“We like him as is,” Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom told “But any time you get a guy who hits the ball really hard, there’s always additional upside, to the extent they can drive the ball a little bit. Even if he doesn’t do that, we think he’s a very polished hitter.”

The Rays also picked up 28-year-old relief pitcher Cole Sulser from the Indians. Sulser has spent time in the AA and AAA levels of the Cleveland farm system, and isn’t considered a top prospect. Tampa Bay will also receive a player to be named later.

Of the three teams involved in the deal, the Indians are expected to have the best chance to compete for a World Series title. William Hill lists Cleveland at 12/1 odds to win the 2019 championship, with Tampa Bay at 50/1 and Seattle at 66/1.