MILWAUKEE -- After nearly 11 months of trade speculation, the Brewers dealt away Domingo Santana on Friday.
Santana was sent to Seattle for outfielder Ben Gamel and Minor League reliever Noah Zavolas in a trade that added a left-handed bat to Milwaukee's outfield mix and provided some closure for Santana, who had been the subject of trade rumors since the Brewers acquired star outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich prior to last season.
Since Santana was arbitration-eligible for the first time, the Brewers saved some money in the swap, though GM David Stearns contended that was not a factor. More important, Stearns said, was gaining roster flexibility (Gamel has one Minor League option remaining; Santana was out), a year of control (Gamel is four service years shy of free agency; Santana, three), and similar positional versatility (both players are corner outfielders who can man center in a pinch).
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"It was all of the above," Stearns said. "As we looked at Ben, we thought he fit our club very well going forward. As you guys know, we value flexibility and versatility, and Ben has both of those things."
Gamel, 26, is the younger brother of onetime Brewers prospect Mat Gamel. He owns a .269/.331/.392 slash line in 900 Major League plate appearances for the Yankees and Mariners over the past three seasons and will be arbitration-eligible next fall. Gamel was a regular for the Mariners in 2017, when he hit 11 of his 13 career home runs, but slipped to 293 plate appearances in 2018, the vast majority against right-handed pitching. Stearns referred to Gamel as a "high-energy" player who can run and has a strong throwing arm.
Zavolas is 22 and was Seattle's 18th-round Draft pick this year out of Harvard. He struck out 41 batters in 38 2/3 innings between the Mariners' two Class A affiliates in his debut season.
"Noah was someone we were interested in in the Draft," Stearns said. "Someone that Seattle just happened to get to before we did. He had a nice pro debut and we think he's a nice, young right-handed pitching prospect."
Santana was once considered a cornerstone of the Brewers' rapid rebuilding project after he hit 30 home runs with an .875 OPS in 2017. But his status changed after the Brewers acquired Cain and Yelich in the final week of January, leading to intense speculation that Santana would be traded for pitching before the 2018 season began.
Instead, he remained, only to endure a down year in which his power disappeared and he was demoted to Triple-A from late July until the beginning of September. Santana was hitting .249 with three home runs and a .667 OPS when the Brewers sent him to Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he earned his way back for September and became a valuable bat off the bench, going 11-for-30 with two home runs, mostly as a pinch-hitter, in September plus the postseason.
"I don't know that our evaluation of Domingo ever wavered from one of a really talented player," Stearns said. "He showed what he can do at the Major League level. At the same time, we brought in some really talented outfielders last year and Domingo got off to a slow start and just really never recovered to gain significant playing time at the Major League level. Part of that was performance and part of that was probably being a victim of circumstances. We think Domingo is a very talented player, and he's a true professional. I think he's going to do well in Seattle."
Asked whether he regretted not trading Santana before the start of last season, Stearns said, "No, I think we were happy to have Domingo in our organization last year. He got some pretty big hits for us down the stretch, and even though he didn't have quite the season that he or we had anticipated from a consistency perspective, he was still a valuable member of our organization."
The trade came a day after the Brewers agreed to terms with another left-handed hitter, free-agent infielder Cory Spangenberg, on a one-year contract. But that deal is expected to remain tentative until a week or so into January, since Spangenberg still must undergo the requisite physical exam.