LAS VEGAS – When Chris Antonetti said Tuesday was an eventful and complicated day for the Indians at the winter meetings, he wasn’t kidding.
The Indians are engaged in several potential three-way deals and they may hinge on being able to trade sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso. Yandy Diaz, who could be the Indians’ opening day third baseman, is involved in some of the deals as well.
Three-team trades are hard to put together and frequently fall apart before completion. But the last time the winter meetings were held in Las Vegas (2008), the Indians acquired Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena in a three-way deal with the Mariners and Mets. It involved 12 players.
On the pitching front, trade talks continue involving Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. For the most part Kluber and Bauer have not been mentioned in the three-way deals as the Indians look to off-load salary by another avenue, while keeping their most precious commodity – starting pitching.
The most likely trading partners for Kluber or Bauer remain the Yankees, Dodgers, Brewers and Phillies. But the Indians have had conversations regarding Kluber and Bauer with almost every team needing starting pitching.
Encarnacion will make $20 million in 2019 with a club option for 2020 that includes a $5 million buyout. Alonso will make $8 million in 2019 with a vesting option worth $9 million in 2020 that includes a $1 million buyout. The option will vest if Alonso gets 550 plate appearances in 2019 or 1,100 plate appearances in 2018 and 2019.
Alonso had 574 plate appearances last season.
Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations, said the team is not conducting a fire sale even though it is discussing trading some of its best players.
“If we were rebuilding, we’d take a dramatically different approach,” he said.
The potential for a three-team deal explains why the Indians have been linked to Seattle and recently-acquired Carlos Santana. A story in the Athletic said the Indians have inquired about Santana, who was recently dealt from the Phillies to the Mariners. Santana, the Indians’ former first baseman, is scheduled to make $40 million over the next two years.
The Tribe has also been linked with San Diego and outfielder/infielder Wil Myers. Like Santana, Myers is making a lot of money – he has four years left on a six-year $83 million deal – and the Indians would have to trade Encarnacion and Alonso to make that happen. Myers was on the disabled list three times last year.
The Padres have a rich farm system, featuring several big-league ready players. The Indians have talked to the Padres about a deal involving some of those players, but have made little headway.
Jason Kipnis, like Encarnacion and Alonso, could be a free agent after 2019. He’s making just over $14.5 million this year, but there has been little interest in the former All-Star second baseman. There are plenty of free agent second basemen and that has hurt his trade value.
On Monday Antonetti, before word of the Tribe’s interest in Santana broke, was asked about the mechanics of making a three-team deal.
“It can happen in a variety of different ways,” he said. “I think what it takes is an understanding of what each team is trying to accomplish and then finding a way to satisfy the needs of each team. Often times it will happen when two teams don’t directly lineup on a positional fit or their time frames … so adding a third team could help satisfy one of their interests a little bit better than they could directly.”
Antonetti used the three-way trade in which the Indians acquired Trevor Bauer in December of 2012. In that deal the Indians acquired Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from Arizona for Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp from the Indians and Didi Gregorious from the Reds. The Indians then sent Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Donald and cash to the Reds for Drew Stubbs.
“The Diamondbacks really valued Gregorius with the Reds,” said Antonetti. “We really wanted to get Bauer, so we were trying to figure out the pieces. We didn’t have the shortstop to get Bauer that the Diamondbacks wanted, so we were trying to find ways where we could get the shortstop from the Reds to give to the Diamondbacks to satisfy their needs, so we could get Bauer.”