The biggest trade of the 2018 winter meetings went down right as the meetings came to a close. Thursday afternoon the Indians, Mariners, and Rays completed a three-team trade that sent Carlos Santana back to Cleveland and Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle. Here are the trade details:

Long story short, the Mariners are shedding salary and getting a draft pick, the Indians are freeing up 2019 payroll and getting a young player, and the Rays swapped one young player for a young player they like better. The cash involved is significant:

All three teams have announced the trade. Here is a breakdown of this monster three-team deal.

The Indians traded 2020 payroll space for 2019 payroll space

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies
Carlos Santana is returning to the Indians. USATSI

It has been known for weeks that the Indians want to shed payroll and, for the most part, it's been assumed they would trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer to accomplish that. And they still might. In this trade, however, the Indians cleared up considerable 2019 payroll space without sacrificing much production, if any. 

Check out Santana vs. Encarnacion and their 2019 Steamer projections:

2019 Salary

2019 Proj. AVG/AVG/SLG

2019 Proj. HR

2019 Proj. WAR


$17 million





$25 million




In addition to getting the better projected player and saving $8 million in 2019 payroll space, the Indians also acquired Bauers, a top 100 prospect as recently as this summer. The 23-year-old first baseman debuted with the Rays this year and hit .201/.316/.384 with 11 home runs in 96 games. Baseball America ranked Bauers as the 45th best prospect in baseball coming into 2018 and said he "has the makings of a younger version of Joey Votto."

Cleveland will have to figure out how to squeeze all three of Santana, Bauers, and Yonder Alonso into their first base and DH spots, but Bauers has some outfield experience, and could wind up out there. The Indians do need outfield help, after all. Bauers could also spend more time in Triple-A after his sluggish MLB debut. Either way, the Indians cleared some payroll, appear to have upgraded at DH, and added a pretty good young player.

The downside here is the money the Indians took on in 2020. Encarnacion will be a free agent after next season whereas Santana is owed $18 million in 2020 between his salary and option buyout. Cleveland took on $18 million in 2020 salary to get Bauers and $14 million in 2019 payroll space -- that is the $8 million difference in salaries plus the $6 million coming from the Mariners -- while upgrading their DH spot.

The Mariners are still breaking things down

Seattle acquired Santana from the Phillies in the Jean Segura trade a few weeks ago and they were expected to flip him at some point. They just weren't expected to flip him for another expensive veteran slugger. The Santana-Encarnacion swap means the Mariners take on $8 million in 2019 payroll but shed $18 million in 2020 payroll for a net $19 million gain when factoring in the money they're sending Cleveland. Thus far Seattle has unloaded over $110 million in future salary obligations with their offseason fire sale.

There is also a chance the Mariners will trade Encarnacion at some point before Opening Day, even if they have to eat some money to facilitate a trade. In fact, the Rays were speculated as a potential landing spot for Encarnacion and could still be a fit even after the Bauers-Diaz swap. The Astros, Rockies, Twins, and Yankees all jump to mind as a team that could use a big bat a first base or DH. The chances of Encarnacion ever wearing a Mariners uniform seem quite small.

The draft pick the Mariners received in the trade is currently the 77th overall selection in the 2019 draft. That pick will move a few spots as picks are gained and lost through free agent compensation, however. Seattle now holds four of the top 100 picks in next year's amateur draft. 

"We're excited to add a proven offensive performer in Edwin Encarnacion," Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. "In addition, by adding another draft pick for 2019, we have another opportunity to add to the talent in our minor league system."

Dipoto, by the way, appears to have made this three-team whopper from a hospital bed.

That's dedication.

The Rays prefer Diaz to Bauers

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians
The Rays effectively swapped Jake Bauers for Yandy Diaz. USATSI

Bauers is a very promising young player. So is Diaz, but he is four years older, and he doesn't offer the same prospect pedigree as Bauers. That said, prospect valuation is subjective, and the Rays simply believe Diaz is the better player.

The 27-year-old Diaz is a .319/.415/.432 hitter in 282 career Triple-A games and a .283/.361/.366 hitter in 88 MLB games. He has only hit 27 home runs in 604 professional games since defecting from Cuba, largely because his swing produces a high rate of ground balls. Diaz can play first and third bases but fits better at first base.

Sulser, a 28-year-old upper-level reliever, had a 3.86 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A in the Indians' farm system. He is not a significant prospect. For all intents and purposes, the Rays flipped Bauers and $5 million for Diaz and an inventory arm.