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Mariners picked good year to be sellers on trade market, but there’s a catch

The Mariners may struggle finding a trade partner for 1B Edwin Encarnación. (AP)

The Mariners’ poor month of May has hammered home the reality of what the team is this season – in the early stages of a rebuild, even if their 13-2 start got the hopes up of some fans.

Bob Stelton: Mariners’ stellar start turned into a bad thing for Seattle

Another thing that has been solidified by the team’s trip from first in the American League West to last is that they will certainly be sellers at the trade deadline. That was never really in doubt, especially with the presences of aging sluggers Edwin Encarnación and Jay Bruce on the roster, but it’s easier now to imagine how Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto will approach the annual July 31 deadline.

Speaking of that deadline, there’s something new about it this year that FOX Sports and MLB Network insider Jon Morosi told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk will benefit sellers like the Mariners – the fact that there’s one deadline for all types of trades as opposed to a non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 and another deadline a month later where players must first clear waivers before a team can trade them.

“The fact that the Mariners are going to be a seller in this first year of the new trade deadline is a positive thing,” Morosi said. “We’re going to see teams that I believe are going to be more aggressive in that area because you don’t have the August trade period any more to help you out. So if you’re a seller this year, the new rules should be a boon to the overall value of your players and should spur a little more action on the part of the buying clubs to pick up those players.”

That should help the Mariners as they will likely be looking for pitching that will very much be needed as they try to catch up with the juggernaut that is the Houston Astros in the coming years. The Mariners have a strength to trade from with a number of capable bats that can play at first base or in the outfield, but the advantage Morosi pointed out for the Mariners may not translate when it comes to the one hitter that has always been their most likely to be traded this year.

That would be Encarnación, who Seattle was open about trying to flip after acquiring him from Cleveland in the offseason, only to struggle finding a suitable trading partner to take the 36-year-old first baseman that was mainly a DH for the four seasons prior to this one.

“Edwin Encarnación still has a lot of value as a playoff-caliber, tested hitter. He’s really at times this year looked like an All-Star, still,” Morosi said. “But here’s the tricky part about that – you’re looking at him as probably a first base/DH type, maybe leaning more towards a DH on a competitive club. … (There is a) relatively small number of teams in the American League that are competitive; it’s basically a group of six. That’s the same group of six that you would theorize would have interest in a corner-type bat that’s almost more of a DH right now.”

In other words, there may not be much of a market for Encarnación, especially considering how deep the contending teams in the AL are on offense. Minnesota has former Mariners star Nelson Cruz at DH, the Yankees have a number of power hitters and recently added another former Mariners DH in Kendrys Morales, the Red Sox have J.D. Martinez and three more talented outfielders, Cleveland is using Carlos Santana (who was part of the trade that brought Encarnación to Seattle) at DH, and Houston is, well… Houston is loaded with hitters (and pitchers, for that matter).

That leaves one potential trade partner for the Mariners when it comes to Encarnación, the same team they were rumored to be talking with before the season began: the Tampa Bay Rays.

“(Tampa Bay) could be a fit depending on how things play out but they have some young guys they believe in, as well,” Morosi said.

Morosi had more to say about the Mariners, including who he thinks the players on Seattle’s current roster are worth focusing the rebuild on and a player he mentioned could possibly be traded while his value is at an all-time high, in the interview with Brock and Salk. You can hear the full segment at the beginning of this podcast.

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