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For Cleveland fans, last year was an odd viewing experience, as for the first time in eight years Carlos Santana was not suiting up for the team. Well, those days are over, as Santana is returning to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario as part of a three-team deal. At the time of writing, Carlos Santana was moving to Cleveland with Edwin Encarnacion heading to Seattle. As part of the agreement, Yandy Diaz and a PTBNL are moving to Tampa Bay, with Jake Bauers heading back to Cleveland in the swap. Perhaps a draft pick is also heading to Seattle, but that is still unconfirmed with the initial report.

Regarding the baseball side of this deal, before moving onto fantasy implications, the deal makes sense for all three teams except Tampa Bay. Cleveland adds a switch-hitting bat with some positional flexibility and adds the OBP baseline that was lacking last year. Also, a player with time in Cleveland, who did not want to leave, is an easy sell to the clubhouse. Encarnacion was a big bat for the team last year, and Seattle’s motivations are all payroll. According to the reports, Santana is owed $35 million over the next two years, while Edwin is owed $20 million this year, and then $5 million buy-out that should be activated next year.  The move will then save Seattle millions in the short term, and perhaps offer similar production in return. With the swap of Diaz and Bauers, Cleveland moves a contact bat for the power bat, and that should also create some opportunity to support more moves for both clubs.

As to Tampa Bay, the questions will arise, and the PTBNL will be a massive piece of the puzzle to evaluate for the real world baseball implications. Rumors that Tampa is trying to acquire Encarnacion after all further complicates things. For now, let's see how this move affects fantasy drafts this spring.

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Yandy Diaz (3B/OF, TB)

Stock Up

Diaz has always been a definite favorite of the Cleveland front office but seemed to be perpetually blocked from a clear chance at playing time. The limiting factor for Diaz has been his lack of launch angle, and if there is a team that might be able to unlock this, Tampa Bay seems to be the best fit.

He does hit the ball hard, and by all accounts might be one of the strongest players in professional baseball, but that has not carried over yet. In 39 games for Cleveland last year, he has a hard contact rate of 44.4%, but also, only had a flyball rate of 23.3%. This led to 34 hits, but only one homer in his limited time. In fact, 26 of his 34 hits were singles, and this limits any real production that he might offer for fantasy owners in points leagues.

For roto leagues, there is value with the batting average, as he did hit .312 in his time with Cleveland, and posted similar numbers in the minors as well. Even if he is only an empty contact bat, the fact that he moves to a team with an opening at third gives his stock a real boost. If he stayed in Cleveland, he was a bench bat for sure, but now, has a real shot to start the year in the lineup.

 

Carlos Santana (1B/3B/DH, CLE)

Stock Neutral

Staying in Philadelphia might have been the best bet for Santana regarding fantasy value, but even there the questions emerged about where he would play. Seattle was apparently a starting spot for him, but the park was not a fit.

The most significant boost for Santana is that he returns to a team where he had posted his best years and a system that knows how to use him. Besides, fantasy owners would prefer a lineup with Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and spare parts to Ryon Healy, Mitch Haniger, and a slumping Kyle Seager. The downside to the move is that there might be minimal gain since Santana was going to play either in Seattle if he stayed, or wherever he was traded to either way.

Santana is still a top-half of the table pick in OBP leagues and offers enough pop to justify a roster spot in a CI position at the very least. No harm was done here, but also no real gain to celebrate either. If anything, owners might like the better park, team, and other factors, but we can only expect so much improvement on a disappointing 2018 campaign.

 

Jake Bauers (1B/OF, CLE)

Too Early to Tell

Bauers is an exciting player for fantasy owners this year, as he started off his career hot and then cooled off with more exposure. The real question here will be where will he play, and how much? If Cleveland hangs onto Yonder Alonso, then the natural fit at first is gone. While he can play the outfield, he might not be the best fielder there.

The offensive profile is there, albeit with a less than stellar 2018 campaign, but playing time might be the issue. In 96 games last year, Bauers slashed .201/.316/.384 with 11 homers. The batting average should jump a bit, as he was a .270 hitter in the minors, but owners should not expect a batting title with this profile. The power is the calling card, as evidenced by the production last year, but also in the minors, where he looked to be a real threat on the basepaths.

In 2017, he stole 20 bases and was on that pace last year before the call-up. With Tampa Bay, he stole six bags, and Cleveland runs more than any other team in the AL, so this could be a 15/15 threat with playing time. Like Santana, the move does not give Bauers a unique boost to his worth, but it is not a step down either. If Bauers moves into a starting role, then this is a slight stock up move for owners due to the better lineup, and the park factors.

 

Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, SEA)

Stock Down

Encarnacion is still one of the better right-handed power hitters in the game, but a move to Seattle seems to lower that power ceiling just a bit. According to ESPN, in 2018 Progressive Field in Cleveland had a home run factor of 1.019, while Safeco, one spot behind, came in at 0.984. Not a huge drop, but a gap of any kind is not good for the player.

The real fantasy killer comes with overall run production, as Progressive Field had a factor of 1.128, and Safeco 0.846. This means that taken with a worse lineup on a “rebuilding” Mariners team, Encarnacion should be expected to regress. Even more, with age and other factors also starting to limit the player, 2019 should not be a target year for Encarnacion in mixed leagues. The other factor to consider is that playing in the AL West, Encarnacion will be facing Houston more often, and this is a harder division top to bottom versus the AL Central.

In 2018 the slugger posted a career-high K mark at 22.8%, and the lowest walk rate at 10.9%. Facing Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander more is worth the stock drop on its own. Owners should have been out on Encarnacion as a top 1B pick anyway this year, but this should reinforce those concerns.

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