LAS VEGAS — The Rays made another big, and surprising, move today, trading 1B Jake Bauers to the Indians and kicking in $5 million to get INF Yandy Diaz and a minor-league pitcher from Cleveland as part of a three-team deal also involving Seattle.
The headline news is the swap of veterans Edwin Encarnacion for Carlos Santana, but this was a major move by the Rays in shipping out Bauers — who made an impressive debut last June and then struggled the final two months — for Diaz, whom they obviously think quite highly of.
Though there were several reports to the contrary, there is no deal in place or even discussed to send Encarnacion to the Rays.
Diaz, 27, can play first and third base and outfield if needed, but not particularly well. He hits right-handed with good contact skills and what the Rays hope is still-developing power. A key factor in the deal is that he hits right-handed, and the Rays were deep in lefties with Bauers and others.
Signed as a free agent from Cuba, Diaz spent parts of the past two seasons with the Indians, hitting .283 with a .727 OPS, 13 doubles, three triples, one home run and 28 RBI in 88 games. At Triple-A Columbus in 2018 he hit .293 with a .797 OPS.
He was the Indians' opening-day third baseman in 2017, playing in 49 games while again splitting time between Cleveland and Columbus. In 2016, he was the Triple-A International League Rookie of the Year, leading the league with a .399 on-base pct. and ranking second with a .325 avg.
The other piece is RHP Cole Sulser, who split last season between Double-A and Triple-A.
Huge thank you to every Rays fan who made me feel the love from day 1, gonna miss y’all! https://t.co/YhyRW8mgdm— Jake Bauers (@JakeBauers11) December 13, 2018
Bauers seemed to be a key part of the Rays' core of young foundation players, but obviously his late-season struggles changed that a bit.
Senior VP Chaim Bloom said they did not sour or give up in any way on Bauers but felt Diaz, with the versatility to play first or third, was a better fit.
Bauers, understandably, had conflicting thoughts on what happened.
"Extremely mixed," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "Confused, maybe a little bit, is a good word. I felt like what we had the makings of was going to be something special this year and obviously I was excited to be a part of it. So I was confused on why I didn't fit into that plan any more but also excited to fit into someone else's plan with an opportunity to play into the postseason for the foreseeable future and that's exciting."
Though the Rays sent $5 million to the Mariners, they turned around and sent $6M to the Indians, who gave up a competitive balance round draft pick.