After winning 90 games in 2018 with a young cost controlled core and a revolutionary strategy that caused ripples throughout MLB, the Rays are signaling that they are all-in as we head into 2019. Tampa has been one of the busier teams this winter and as we write this piece we are blessed with a bit of hindsight that makes the trade of a guy like Jake Bauers easier to understand.
Since pulling off this trade, the Rays sent three minor league arms to Texas in the 3-way deal that sent Profar to Oakland. In clearing two spots from the 40 man roster, the move allowed them to sign Charlie Morton to a 2 year $30 million deal.
Meanwhile, the Indians, are seeking to maximize their payroll limitations and saved $11m in this trade. The rumors are still swirling about Bauer and Kluber, as the Indians look to remain competitive under a budget while the Mariners are entering a full rebuild.
So let’s break down this trade and see who the real winners are.
The Indians Get:
Carlos Santana, 1B - owed $17m in 2019 and $17.5m in 2020 with a $17.5m club option in 2021 from Seattle. Santana is a known commodity in Cleveland and is a reliable source of OBP and power.
Jake Bauers, 1B/OF - One of the top prospects in the Rays system. The 23 year old Bauers will not be a free agent until 2025. He posted a 0.6 WAR in 96 games. Known for his advanced approach and emerging power, Bauers struggled in the second half to the tune of a .589 OPS. His walk rate and K rate both trending in the wrong directions.
$6 million from Seattle
The Mariners Get:
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH - Over the last four seasons, Encarnacion’s OPS dropped from .929 to .810. EE still provides a tremendous amount of value as a 30- HR bat. The expectation is that EE will be moved at some point in 2019. He has a club option for $20 million in 2020.
Indians Comp B pick - 77th overall in the 2019 draft - This is the big win for Seattle. Flipping Santana for EE and gaining another pick is how you rebuild a farm system quickly.
$5 million from Tampa
The Rays Get:
Yandy Diaz, 3B - The 27 year old is under team control until 2024 and is not arbitration eligible until 2021. Diaz is a plus hitter with an advanced approach. He posted a 92.1 m.p.h. average exit velocity in limited action last season. He is serviceable at 3B/1B/LF. As the Rays enter the win-now mode, they clearly view Diaz as an upgrade over Bauers.
Cole Sulser, RHP - 28 year old reliver that posted 14.09 K/9 and 2.52 BB/9. The Rays did not need to add him to the 40-man. Sulser will open the season in Triple-A Durham and provides the Rays with another high octane reliever that can impact the big league club in 2019.
Overall, I see how this trade benefits all parties involved. The Mariners flipped Santana for the 77th pick in the draft and should add more assets with the move of EE. The Indians cleared payroll while still adding to their major league depth. Santana and Bauers will outproduce EE. Bauers could become a star. The Indians dominance over the AL Central will continue as they continue to find creative ways to keep their core together.
But the more I think about this trade, the more I like it for the Rays, which I did not initially. Diaz is the type of hitter that could become a middle-of-the-order bat. I mentioned his 92.1 mph exit velocity but I failed to bring up his 4.5 degree launch angle. With a few tweaks to his swing, Diaz has the chance to become the most productive player in this trade as soon as next season. At minimum, he should produce as much, if not more than Bauers. So adding his versatility is a big win for the Rays.
So who won this trade? I think all three teams come out as winners. Each team achieved their goal. The Indians and Rays improved their MLB depth without adding payroll while the Mariners added a valuable trade chip and the 77th pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.
Photo of Yandy Diaz. Courtesy of Kim Klement, USA Today Sports