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Cleveland Indians: What Carlos Santana’s return means going forward

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(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /
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A new hole in the infield

Lost between the two big names exchanging hands in this three-team salary swap is that of Yandy Diaz. Before this trade took place, it stood to reason that Diaz would become an everyday player for the Indians in 2019, presumably at third base. Now that he has been shipped off to Tampa, the Tribe has one more question to answer.

If Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez should return to the positions they’ve manned for most of the last two seasons, this question is answered quite easily. If not, the Tribe has just entered the market for a new third baseman.

Their in-house option is prospect Yu Chang, who appeared in 127 games for Triple-A Columbus in 2018, posting a .256/.330/.411 slash line with 13 home runs and 62 RBI. The 22-year-old is a shortstop by trade, but he is very obviously blocked by another young man currently playing there.

Chang also logged 185 innings at third base in 2018, but the Indians will most certainly want him to cut back on his staggering 144 strikeouts before giving him a full-time nod at the major league level.

With that in mind, the acquisition of a player with the ability to man the hot corner seems inevitable, even if it’s not a blockbuster move.

If the Indians continue to engage in trade discussions with a team like the Dodgers (whether those rumors are 99 percent false or not), Enrique Hernandez is an interesting name to keep an eye on. He can play just about any position on the field, and though third base is not his primary, he would make a valuable addition to the Indians as a super-utility player.

In any case, it is highly unlikely the Indians don’t address their sudden lack of infield depth. This could either factor into the equation when taking calls on a starting pitcher, or the Indians could use some of their limited 2019 savings to make a low-profile free agency acquisition.

This trade as a whole can be evaluated from many angles. Some will question the decision to part ways with Diaz without ever having given him an everyday opportunity in the majors. Others will contend that Cleveland’s batting order is now marginally worse than it was a year ago without Encarnacion. Both are fair arguments.

But if we’ve all been paying attention, the front office has been hinting at a move like this for some time now. Chris Antonetti is constantly talking about trying to balance Cleveland’s market constraints against building a winning team, and this trade accomplished that by maximizing salary obligations and adding flexibility to the roster.

Next. Carlos Santana returns in surprising three-team trade. dark

And most importantly, it is only the first step.

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