LAS VEGAS -- Though Jerry Dipoto closed out the Winter Meetings in a Las Vegas hospital dealing with severe chest pains from blood clots in his lungs, he still managed to pull off a deal before everyone else headed home.
The Mariners traded recently acquired first baseman Carlos Santana to the Indians on Thursday for veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion and a Competitive Balance Round B pick in the 2019 Draft.
Assistant general manager Justin Hollander said Dipoto was feeling better after being driven to the hospital on Wednesday. Dipoto was released from the hospital on Thursday to rest in his Las Vegas hotel and was cleared to fly home to Seattle on Friday.
"We were texting back and forth," Hollander said. "Some of the ground work had been laid. He basically handed me the keys and said, 'You know what I want to do, roughly. Just check in when you have questions, but go run with it.'"
Encarnacion could fill Seattle's designated hitter role for 2019 with Nelson Cruz on the free-agent market, but the Mariners are willing to flip Encarnacion in another deal if possible.
"If we have an opportunity to speed up the timeline on our stepback, we'll do what is best for the Mariners in the long run," Hollander said. "And we're trying to make the long run shorter. Trying to condense that timeline of when we're ready to contend. So if we can pick up an asset that helps us going forward, we'll do that."
Encarnacion has one year and $21.6 million remaining on his contract, plus a $20 million option or a $5 million buyout for 2020, while Santana has two years at $40 million remaining. So assuming Seattle takes Encarnacion's buyout, the rebuilding club gains about $13 million in payroll flexibility for 2020, in addition to adding a high Draft pick.
The Competitive Balance Round B pick is the 77th overall selection in the 2019 Draft next June. That gives the Mariners three picks in the top 100 for the Draft as they have rights to the 20th selection in the first round and the 59th overall selection in the second round.
"We're excited to add a proven offensive performer in Edwin Encarnacion," Dipoto said. "In addition, by adding another Draft pick for 2019, we have another opportunity to add to the talent in our Minor League system."
Hollander said the added roster and payroll flexibility was the key, along with the Draft pick. And if the club winds up keeping Encarnacion, they've added an outstanding player.
"I know people have said you're tearing it down, but we want to have good players on our team and be representative and try to create a positive environment," Hollander said. "Edwin Encarnacion is a really good offensive player. It creates flexibility for us, and also it gets the comp pick for us. We wouldn't have done the deal without the Draft pick."
Encarnacion, who turns 36 in January, has been one of MLB's top sluggers over the past seven seasons while earning three All-Star berths in that span. He hit .246/.336/.474 with 32 home runs and 107 RBIs last year in 137 games, with 115 of those at designated hitter and the rest at first base.
Since 2012, the Dominican Republic native leads MLB in home runs with 263 and RBIs at 764. Cruz is second in both those categories in the same span at 254 and 688. Encarnacion was third in the AL in RBIs last season and tied for ninth in home runs.
Santana was acquired from the Phillies on Dec. 3 along with young shortstop J.P. Crawford in a deal for shortstop Jean Segura and relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos, with Santana's addition primarily to help offset the four years and $59 million remaining on Segura's contract.
Dipoto's goal is to free the club from the burden of the long-term salaries that figured to limit his payroll flexibility in 2020 and beyond, when he's looking to bring on the new young core of talent being acquired in deals like the Segura and Robinson Cano trades in recent weeks.