LAS VEGAS — Just as several key members of the Indians front office boarded their return flight from the winter meetings Thursday, they finally struck the type of restructuring deal for which they had been searching but unable to complete the previous three days.

The Indians finalized a major three-team deal to acquire first baseman Carlos Santana and $6 million from the Seattle Mariners along with first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers from the Tampa Bay Rays.

To acquire those two pieces and the cash, the Indians sent designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and a compensation pick (No. 77) to the Mariners and infielder Yandy Diaz and minor-league right-hander Cole Sulser to the Rays. To facilitate the deal, the Rays sent $5 million to the Mariners.

The deal gives the Indians some financial flexibility while also retooling much of their infield with added versatility. Both elements were needed.

“First off, I think we’re acquiring two players who we feel will help us next year,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “Both Carlos and Jake are productive major-league players that not only will contribute but will enhance the versatility to your roster, and beyond that it adds some payroll flexibility in 2019.”

Santana, 32, is still owed $40 million over the next two seasons, along with a $17.5 million club option for 2021, which has a buyout of $500,000. Encarnacion is slated to make $20 million in 2019 and has a club option for 2020 valued at $20 million with a $5 million buyout. Their salaries, at least for 2019, essentially offset before factoring in the cash the Mariners included in the deal.

The Indians were clear during the week they weren’t looking to rebuild. Rather, they were trying to position every asset they could in order to compete in 2019, extend their contention window beyond next year and find the necessary room financially to accomplish each goal. It was an attempt to reposition their resources on the roster.

More moves could very well be coming in direct relation to what the Indians did on Thursday.

Last season as a rookie, Bauers, 23, hit .201 with a .700 OPS (11 HR, 22 doubles), 48 RBI and six stolen bases in 388 plate appearances with the Rays. He primarily played first base but does have experience in left field, potentially giving the Indians some options.

“We like the fact that he can play both,” Antonetti said. “We feel he’s an above-average defender at first but also has some experience in the outfield and can also play out there if that’s where we have an opportunity. That versatility was an attractive element to us in addition to what we think he has the ability to develop into offensively.”

Santana, Bauers and Yonder Alonso are now all on the roster as primarily first basemen/designated hitters. If Bauers is moved to the outfield full time, Alonso can remain at first base. Otherwise, another deal could be in the works.

“A lot of it depends on what the final construction of the roster might be,” Antonetti said when asked how the trade might affect Alonso. “But both Carlos and Jake do have some versatility. We could configure the roster in a variety of different ways.”

In his first year way from Cleveland after signing a three-year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, Santana hit .229 with a .352 on-base percentage, 24 home runs, 28 doubles and 86 RBI last season. He was traded to the Mariners earlier this month.

“We have a long history with him,” Antonetti said of Santana. “We know what makes him tick. We know what things he brings to a team and to a clubhouse, so that does help.”

This deal could also have further ramifications for the infield. Without Diaz, the Indians as currently constructed would likely move Jason Kipnis back to second base and Jose Ramirez to third base, although a secondary move could shift the Indians’ versatile lineup.

 

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.