CLEVELAND -- When the Indians acquired both Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers in a three-team deal with the Mariners and Rays on Thursday, the writing was on the wall for Yonder Alonso, who was no longer a clear roster fit on a team suddenly loaded with first-base types.That wall did
CLEVELAND -- When the Indians acquired both Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers in a three-team deal with the Mariners and Rays on Thursday, the writing was on the wall for Yonder Alonso, who was no longer a clear roster fit on a team suddenly loaded with first-base types.
That wall did not lie. The Indians traded Alonso to the division-rival White Sox on Friday for Minor League outfielder Alex Call. The club officially announced the deal on Saturday morning.
"We had been in conversations with a variety of teams [about] Yonder as we were moving things forward with the three-team trade with Seattle and Tampa Bay," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "So we developed an understanding and a landscape for Yonder -- and the White Sox emerged as a potential option for us in the last few days. ... This is the concept that we felt makes the most sense for us and that's why we moved it forward."
The real key to the deal was the Indians' ability to move the entirety of the $8 million owed to Alonso in 2019, as well as the $1 million buyout of his vesting option in '20. Taken in totality with the swap two weeks ago that sent Yan Gomes to the Nationals and the aforementioned three-team deal swung at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, the Indians have shaved roughly $18 million off their '19 payroll.
"I think we've had a couple of goals going into the offseason and that's first and foremost trying to make sure we have a team that's capable of winning the American League Central in 2019, but also position the organization for sustaining success beyond that," Antonetti said. "There are a couple [of] ways to do that. One is to infuse young, controllable talent into the organization and the second element of that is to manage our finances -- and we feel like the series of [moves] we've made up to this point advances both of those goals."
That savings has significance in a marketplace where the Indians have listened to offers for starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. They don't have nearly the financial incentive to move one of their controllable starting stalwarts that they once did. Although Antonetti did not take any potential trade option off the table, the Indians can conceivably use the money saved in the three completed swaps to fill their Major League needs without robbing from their signature strength.
"It's still relatively early in the offseason," Antonetti said. "So I think what we will continue to do is be aggressive -- taking opportunities to improve our position moving forward. Whether that's a 2019 impact or it's gonna help us sustain success beyond 2019, we'll have to see what opportunities present themselves."
If we were to boil the activities of the last few days down to their essence, the Indians swapped in Santana for Encarnacion and Bauers for Alonso, gaining 2019 salary relief and sacrificing Yandy Diaz, a '19 Draft pick and Minor Leaguer Cole Sulser. Though he obviously has nowhere near the established track record of Alonso (who had a .738 OPS, 23 homers and 19 doubles in his lone season with the Tribe), Bauers could profile as a sort of younger, cheaper version -- a left-handed bat with on-base ability and potential for 20-homer pop as his isolated power improves. Bauers comes with some added defensive versatility, having experience in the corner-outfield spots though he is most comfortable and valuable at first base.
"We feel like he's a developing, young hitter [who has] got a good approach at the plate with emerging power," Antonetti said. "... We think he has a lot of ingredients to be a successful Major League player."
Of course, salary relief comes with a cost of a different sort. In making these deals, the Indians created a new hole in their infield, where Diaz was penciled in for regular at-bats at third base. At the moment -- and in case you haven't noticed, the Indians' roster is a moving target -- Jose Ramirez could return to third base and Jason Kipnis might return to second. But that only adds to the riddle that is and has been the outfield, where Jordan Luplow is the only external addition of the offseason to date who profiles as big league ready.
So as was the case with the previous two trades the Indians made, the Alonso deal will best be judged when the entirety of the offseason is taken into account -- and only the Marty McFlys among us are capable of that. But the Bauers addition was a clear precursor to an Alonso trade, and the Indians did not take long to drop the other shoe. He goes to a White Sox club that could use Alonso's arrival as a lure (beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars) to try to attract Alonso's brother-in-law, Manny Machado.
As far as what the Indians got back in the Alonso deal, Call is considered an organizational depth piece. The 24-year-old split 2018 between Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, turning in a combined .248/.345/.415 line with 12 homers and 28 doubles in 505 plate appearances.
"We do think [Call] has some ingredients to be a pretty good hitter," Antonetti said. "He showed good patience at the plate and we think there's an opportunity for his power to continue to develop. In fact, his exit velocity has increased a little bit over this past season and we're hopeful that trend can continue."
Again, though, the real addition was the subtraction of salary -- and that might result in the ability to retain Kluber and Bauer.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com.