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More corner players move, and they’re not Royals

The Indians attempt to replace Carlos Santana for less, and Evan Longoria is no longer a Ray

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Another team in need of a first baseman chose one who isn’t Eric Hosmer.

A few days after the Red Sox made the surprising decision to retain Mitch Moreland as their primary first baseman, the Indians acquired a replacement for Carlos Santana. With the Phillies signing Santana for three years and $60 million, the Indians are rolling with Yonder Alonso at two years and $16 million, or three years and $24 million if he triggers a vesting option for 2020.

This is a fun move to watch from afar, because it’s a classic analytic gambit. Looking only at last year’s stats:

  • Alonso: .266/.365/.501, 22 2B, 28 HR, 68 BB, 118 K over 521 PA in age-30 season
  • Santana: .259/.363/.455, 37 2B, 23 HR, 88 BB, 94 K over 667 PA in age-31 season

Santana was paid more than twice as much because he’s a switch-hitter with a rich history of 20something homers and a ton of walks. Alonso, meanwhile, had never hit more than eight homers before last season, and he largely isn’t allowed to face left-handed pitching, which buoys his rate stats.

If Alonso is a loft-added success story, the Indians will keep chugging along with regained financial flexibility. But if the second-half drop-off suggests a limited shelf life instead of mild regression for an above-average player, the $8 million salary is the kind the Indians have struggled to absorb in the past from platoon types. I’m reminded of players from 10 years ago like Ryan Garko, Jason Michaels and David Dellucci, who looked like decent cost-effective patches, but also didn’t have any room to underachieve before they started compromising the team.

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The Alonso addition only counts as Wednesday’s second-biggest move, as it can’t quite compare to the Tampa Bay Rays trading the face of their franchise to the San Francisco Giants.

Evan Longoria, the Rays’ all-time leader in games, plate appearances, runs, doubles, homers, RBIs and walks, among other categories, is heading west as the Giants attempt to regain glory without rebuilding. They traded Denard Span while receiving some cash from the Rays, which helps them stay under the luxury tax threshold, but it cost them a decent prospect in Christian Arroyo, as well as Stephen Woods and Matt Krook.

This is the kind of trade that feels momentous but could just as easily be meaningless, especially if Longoria is done as a hitter of note and the Giants can’t even get to .500. While we wait for that stuff to play out, what we can say is that the team most starved for a third baseman filled the hole without resorting to free agency.

That’s bad news for Mike Moustakas, because the Giants were the only team attached to him in the rumor mill, and maybe only due to circumstances.

There are other potential landing spots (there’s a hefty overlap with teams trying for Manny Machado), and as we talked about with Hosmer, Scott Boras clients are no strangers to playing it cool in the face of an adverse market.

But the minimal interest has Buster Olney thinking that Moustakas might resort to a one-year contract. That strikes me as premature, because he’ll have to share the position with Machado and Josh Donaldson in free agency next year, but it’s increasingly feasible as players come off the board and vacancies get filled.

More pertinent to the White Sox’ interest, it’s increasingly feasible that Moustakas might sign a contract for a total value less than $50 million, which means the Royals would not receive a compensatory pick under the new rules. The big draft boost from extra picks is supposed to be Kansas City’s silver lining for losing Hosmer, Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain in the same winter, and Royals fans are already bracing for disappointment:

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The White Sox selected Yermin Mercedes in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft last week, and everything I knew about him I gleaned from his page.

That doesn’t count as a first impression. This does: