LAS VEGAS —The legend of Trader Jerry has a new anecdote.
Jerry Dipoto, the Seattle Mariners’ general manager and the man of many trades and transactions, finalized a trade with the Cleveland Indians late Wednesday evening from a Las Vegas hospital bed with Mariners assistant general manager Justin Hollander standing in the room.
As part of a three-team trade that included the Tampa Bay Rays, Dipoto sent recently acquired first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana back to the Indians in exchange for designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and a competitive balance round B pick in the 2019 draft. That pick is No. 77 overall in the draft. Sources confirmed the Mariners also received $5 million in cash from the Indians and are sending $6 million in cash to the Rays. That cash will be paid out over two years.
“We’re excited to add a proven offensive performer in Edwin Encarnacion,” Dipoto said in a statement also presumably made from his hospital bed. “In addition, by adding another draft pick for 2019, we have another opportunity to add to the talent in our minor league system.”
Of the dozens and dozens of trades Dipoto has made with the Mariners, completing one in a hospital is a first for him.
“I have a picture of it,” Hollander said, showing a cell phone photo of Dipoto wearing a hospital gown in bed and giving a thumbs up.
Dipoto had been feeling ill since Tuesday evening, and after being relegated to his room for most of Wednesday, the Mariners staff in Las Vegas decided to take him to a hospital out of “an abundance of caution.”
“He’s feeling better,” Hollander said. “I was just texting with him and his wife, Tamie, (who) said he was feeling better. Hopefully he gets out of there today and can fly back tomorrow. They are still running tests and getting results, but I would assume it’s nothing serious if they are hopefully going to let him go home today.”
The framework of the deal started earlier in the week, and with Dipoto not feeling well, Hollander and the rest of the staff continued to work on it.
“He handed me the keys and said, ‘You know what I want to do, so just check in if you have questions, but go run with it,’” Hollander said. “Everybody chipped in and everybody did a little bit more and jumped in. Everybody was awesome.”
But late Wednesday evening, Hollander decided to visit Dipoto as the trade was getting close to being finalized and had some last-minute details to be set.
“We went to see him because there was sort of a new wrinkle in the trade. I told one of the teams that I was on my way to see him to get them an answer on something in a half an hour,” Hollander said. “I asked him how we was doing first… and then we talked trade and did the deal. I put him on speaker phone.”
Santana’s time with the Mariners was brief —a total of 10 days.
When the Mariners acquired Santana from the Phillies as part of the trade that sent shortstop Jean Segura and relievers James Pazos and Juan Nicasio to Philadelphia, the expectation was that the Mariners would move him immediately as part of what they are calling their “step back.”
But it was somewhat surprising that they acquired Encarnacion, who turns 36 in January. The veteran slugger hit .246 with 32 home runs, 107 RBI, 63 walks, a .336 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage in 137 games with Cleveland in 2018. He will make $20 million in 2019 with a $5 million buyout for his 2020 option listed at $20 million. Santana was slated to make $17.5 million each of the next two seasons and has a $500,000 buyout.
Much like with the acquisition of Santana, it seems unlikely Encarnacion ever wears a Mariners uniform. Seattle is expected to trade him to another team to garner more prospects.
“He’s a really good player,” Hollander said. “We’ll see where it goes with Edwin whether he stays with us or moves on to another destination. If he plays for us, he’ll be a good player for us.”
There is a market for Encarnacion, but it may take some time to develop with teams still looking at possibly signing ex-Mariner Nelson Cruz as a free agent. Cruz’s agent, Bryce Dixon, has had talks with the Minnesota Twins, Rays and Hosuton Astros. The Mariners logically would approach the two teams that fail to land Cruz with Encarnacion serving as the consolation prize.
“We will do what’s best for the Mariners in the long run, and we want to make that long run shorter,” Hollander said. “If we can pick up an asset going forward, we’ll do that, but we’ll see where the market takes us.”
For the Mariners, the draft pick acquired is key for their rebuilding process. The trade gives them another high-level pick to supplement a farm system that needs to accumulate more talent.
“We wouldn’t have done the transaction without that pick being involved,” Hollander said. “It’s very important to us.”