Seattle Mariners: Carlos Santana Trade Profile, Cleveland Edition

TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 10: Infielder Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelhia Phillies strikes outin the bottom of 1st inning during the game two of the Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 10, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 10: Infielder Carlos Santana #41 of the Philadelhia Phillies strikes outin the bottom of 1st inning during the game two of the Japan and MLB All Stars at Tokyo Dome on November 10, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images) /
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As many expected, news broke yesterday that the Seattle Mariners are listening to offers for newly acquired first baseman Carlos Santana. While the Mariners are fine holding onto Santana, it makes more sense to move him.

Santana is 33-years-old and is under club control for just 2 seasons, though he does have a club option for 2021, and is guaranteed $35 million if the option isn’t activated. Part of the issue is that most of the American League, where Santana holds the most value, isn’t interested in competing in 2019, just like the Mariners.

While most of the teams who plan to compete in 2019 could use an upgrade at either first or DH, they have other needs that are more pressing and don’t have $17 million to give to Santana in 2019. So the Mariners will need to eat money. Which isn’t a problem for this team in 2019.

Perhaps the best fits are the New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins, and Cleveland Indians. The Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros could also make sense but are a lot less likely.

Finding a deal that makes sense for both teams almost requires a salary dump. Prior to being dealt to the Mariners, there were rumblings that the Yankees and Phillies discussed a Jacoby Ellsbury and Tommy Kahnle for Santana swap. That proposal makes more sense for the Phillies than Mariners, but the framework may still work.

However, today we are focusing on Carlos Santana’s former MLB team, the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland is going through a bit of a retool. They need to shed some payroll while still trying to improve to compete with the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox.

So eating a good chunk of money would be imperative for this deal to get done. The Mariners can’t eat enough of Santana’s salary to make it worthwhile for Cleveland to just hand over a prospect. They’ll need to send the Mariners an expensive piece back. Enter old friend Yonder Alonso.

Alonso was acquired by the Mariners in August of 2017 and later signed a 2-year deal with the Indians, worth $16 million. He also has a vesting option for 2021, worth $9 million if Alonso gets 526 PAs in 2019.

With Santana at $17 million and Alonso at $8 million in 2019, it stands to reason the Mariners would send the Indians $7-$9 million to make the salaries as even as possible.  The Mariners would then send another $5-$7 million in 2020 to help pay down Santana’s 2020 cost. Let’s assume the high end on both counts and send $16 million total to the Indians.

This leaves the Mariners eating 46% of Santana’s remaining salary. So what does $16 million buy Seattle? Here is our proposal:

There were a few names we kicked around in this proposal. Tyler Naquin fits the mold of a player with MLB experience who plays the OF with above-average tools. Naquin also has 4-years of club control, which fits into Dipoto’s window. However, Naquin still swings-and-misses more than Dipoto likes and will turn 28-years-old in April.

Ultimately, we settled on Yu Chang, a 23-year-old infielder who spent all of 2018 in AAA Columbus. Chang slashed .256/.330/.411 in 2018, clubbing 43 XBH along with 42 walks. He has the defensive skill to stick at SS and could slide to second or third where he would be above-average.

Chang lacks the in-game power to profile at third. He does have above-average raw power, suggesting he could be a 20 home run guy eventually. Chang also shows an average run tool. With his average tools across the board, Chang may have a long career as an everyday second baseman or utility player.

In the new look Seattle Mariners farm system, Chang would likely slide into the Top 10 and could be ready to go by 2019 if the Mariners can find a partner for Dee Gordon or Kyle Seager.

Overall, this deal gives the Indians an upgrade at first base they are comfortable with, without adding significant cost to their payroll. Seattle gets a short-term first baseman and an interesting infield prospect with a nice floor and ceiling combo.

Next. Is Seager Next to Go in Mariners Fire Sale. dark

These are the types of deals Dipoto will still need to consider to set himself up for 2020 and 2021. Chang is the type of prospect that makes sense for Dipoto and company as either a trade chip or a part of the future. Hopefully, the Mariners and the trade market agree.

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