Seattle Mariners legend Carlos Santana could soon be making his way to the Cleveland Indians, according to The Athletic’s Corey Brock. The Tribe are allegedly one of three teams — alongside the Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies — in play for the 32-year-old who slashed .000/.000/.000 with the Mariners last season in 0 PA.
If the Mariners do decide to part with their hometown hero, he could potentially return to Cleveland, where he played in an important game or two in his time. Santana was acquired by the Mariners earlier in the offseason in a deal that sent Jean Segura to the Philadelphia Phillies as one of Jerry DiPoto’s many, many moves he is going to make before spring.
It’s curious that the Indians would be poking around the idea of bringing Santana back as he’s still owed $34.5 over the next two seasons with a team option worth $17.5 million in 2021. Considering the Indians seem more interested in shredding payroll than making huge leaps this offseason — and considering that first base isn’t exactly a need — it’s safe to assume another move would have to be made first.
The Indians have already been discussing trading Edwin Encarnacion to the Rays of all teams, and maybe they could be looking to get rid of Yonder Alonso after his underwhelming debut season in Cleveland. Encarnacion is owed $20 million in 2019 and $25 million in 2020 with a $5 million buyout, while Alonso is owed $8 million in 2019 with a $9 million vesting option kicking in for 2020 if he reaches 526 plate appearances in 2019 with a $1 million buyout. Clearing out either of one of those contracts is a pretty easy way to carve a path for a Santana reunion.
Looking at projections for 2019, there’s about a one-win difference between Santana and Encarnacion according to Steamer. Santana is expected to be worth 2.6 fWAR with a .241/.357/.435 slash and 24 home runs, while Edwin is tagged with a 1.6 fWAR, .242/.343/.471 slash and 34 home runs. Do you want Santana’s outstanding on-base ability, or 10 extra home runs? Do you want Santana potentially being pretty good at first base again, or Edwin as a permanent DH?
Swapping Santana for Edwin would be very similar to what the Indians did when they brought on the dead money of Chris Johnson in exchange for Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn — they would have to pay a player (in this case Santana) a little longer, but they save some money to make moves in the short-term. And, I mean, they get Carlos Santana back. Hell yeah.