LAS VEGAS — Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was in the hospital, making a trade from a bed.
Cleveland counterpart Chris Antonetti was boarding a plane headed back home, trying to finalize the deal before the flight pulled away from the gate.
They managed to complete the swap as the winter meetings came to an end. Carlos Santana was sent back to Cleveland, where he was an Indians fan favourite. Edwin Encarnacion is headed to Seattle — no telling how long he’ll stick there.
The star hitters were dealt for each other Thursday, part of a three-team trade that also involved Tampa Bay.
The Rays got infielder Yandy Diaz and minor league right-hander Cole Sulser from Cleveland. The Indians also acquired first baseman Jake Bauers from Tampa Bay, while the busy Mariners wound up with a draft pick. Tampa Bay will send $5 million to Seattle and the Mariners will pay $6 million to Cleveland.
"I called Edwin earlier this morning before we had final sign-off because again I wanted him to hear from me," Antonetti said after landing, adding he was in midflight when he finally reached Diaz.
Dipoto made likely the first winter meetings deal from a medical facility since then Jim Hendry’s agreement with pitcher Ted Lilly in 2007 when the then-Chicago Cubs general manager was taken for angioplasty in 2006. Dipoto felt ill a day earlier and was checked "out of an abundance of caution," the team said.
"We’ll see how it goes with Edwin, whether he stays with us or he moves on to another destination," Seattle assistant general manager Justin Hollander said.
Coming off their third straight AL Central, the Indians had been expected to make a move at the meetings, presumably with ace Corey Kluber or pitcher Trevor Bauer.
Instead, they jettisoned Encarnacion — the designated hitter has averaged 108 RBIs over the last seven seasons — and brought back the popular Santana.
"Not sure how to feel," Indians star Jose Ramirez tweeted.
The 32-year-old Santana, known for his power and ability to draw walks, spent the first eight seasons of his career in Cleveland before signing a $60 million, three-year deal with Philadelphia last winter. He is still owed $35 million.
Philadelphia sent Santana to the rebuilding Mariners this month in a trade that included All-Star shortstop Jean Segura. Seattle quickly parted with Santana, who was appreciated by Indians rooters even more after he left.
"We know what makes him tick. We know all of the things that he brings to a team into a clubhouse, so that does help," Antonetti said.
Santana hit .229 with 24 home runs and 86 RBIs while walking 110 times as the Phillies’ first baseman. He is owed $17 million next season and $17.5 million in 2020, part of a deal that includes a $17.5 million team option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout.
Yonder Alonso hit 23 homers with 83 RBIs last season as the Indians’ first baseman. He’s signed for 2019 with an option for 2020 — with the additions of Santana and Bauers, perhaps Alonso could end up in a trade along with one of Cleveland’s star pitchers.
Encarnacion had 107 RBIs while hitting 32 homers and .246. He leads the majors in homers and RBIs since 2012, and could provide the power lost when DH Nelson Cruz became a free agent.
A month before he turns 36, Encarnacion is guaranteed $25 million: $20 million next season and a $5 million buyout of a $25 million club option for 2020.
"Both Carlos and Jake are productive major league players that not only will contribute but enhance the versatility of our roster," Antonetti said. "And beyond that it adds some payroll flexibility for us in 2019."
Seattle gets a competitive balance round B draft pick, currently projected at 77th overall. The Mariners, who recently traded star second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, said getting that choice was key to them making the deal.
"By adding another draft pick for 2019, we have another opportunity to add to the talent in our minor league system," Dipoto said in a statement.
Tampa Bay was eager to get Yandy Diaz, who hit .283 with 28 RBIs in 88 games for Cleveland in the last two seasons. Highly regarded at 27, his opportunities were limited with the Indians because they already had a talented infield.
Diaz hit .312 in 39 games for Cleveland this year. The Cuban led the Triple-A International League in on-base percentage.
"The key to this deal for us is how we feel about Yandy Diaz," said Chaim Bloom, the Rays’ senior vice-president of baseball operations. "We really like his bat. He hasn’t gotten an opportunity to show it regularly at the major league level just being blocked by some of the players that the Indians have had."
"But we think there’s a lot of upside there," he said. "He’s a third baseman by trade. He can also play first base. He’s kicked around the outfield a little bit. That and the fact that he’s a right-handed hitter is a really good fit for our roster."
The 23-year-old Bauers made his major league debut last season and hit .201 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs in 96 games for Tampa Bay.
Sulser, 28, spent last season in Triple-A and Double-A, going a combined 8-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 47 relief appearances.
Tampa Bay will send the Mariners $2.5 million in two installments by May 1 and Aug. 1 next year. Seattle will send Cleveland a pair of $1 million payments on or before May 1 and Aug. 1 next year, and $2 million on or before each of those dates in 2020.