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Mariners trade season is here: Jay Bruce sent to Phillies for prospect

The Mariners have sent Jay Bruce back to the NL East in a trade with the Phillies. (AP)

Mariners trade season appears to be upon us.

Drayer: Bruce trade starts next step in Mariners’ rebuilding process

Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto has completed the most significant trade of the 2019 Mariners season thus far with veteran slugger Jay Bruce heading to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league infielder Jake Scheiner.

Bruce told reporters in the Mariners clubhouse prior to Sunday’s game against the Angels that he had been informed of the trade and will join the Phillies on Monday for their series in San Diego. The Mariners announced the trade Saturday afternoon. Seattle also recalled outfielder Braden Bishop from Triple-A Tacoma to take Bruce’s place on the active roster.

The Mariners are sending a considerable amount of money along with Bruce to the Phillies. Seattle agreed to pay the Phillies $18,567,204 next Jan. 15, offsetting most of the $21,317,204 remaining in the $39 million, three-year contract Bruce agreed to with the New York Mets in January 2018.

Bruce is owed $8,317,204 this year from his $13 million salary and has a $13 million salary in 2020. The Mets remain responsible for the second $1.5 million installment of his $3 million signing bonus, a payment due next Jan. 31.

Scheiner, 23, a fourth-round MLB Draft selection by the Phillies in 2017 out of the University of Houston, is primarily a third baseman, though he regularly plays left field and first base, as well. He is hitting .256 with two home runs, eight doubles, a triple and a .680 OPS in 44 games with High-A Clearwater this season. In 2018 he had a .296 average, .372 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, 30 doubles, five triples and 10 stolen bases in 122 games with Class-A Lakewood.

Scheiner was a mid-season and post-season South Atlantic League All-Star last year.

Bruce is tied for 11th in the American League this season with 14 home runs, the last of which he hit on Friday for his 300th career homer. He is hitting .212 this year and carries a strong .816 OPS, a number propped up significantly by the fact that 25 of his 35 hits have gone for extra bases. His on-base percentage sits at just .283 through 47 games this year, however.

“I figured this would be the situation,” Bruce said in the Mariners clubhouse Sunday morning. “It’s bittersweet. I really like the group of guys here. I got to know some of them and had great relationships. It’s part of the business, though. I get to go somewhere I have a chance to win, and at this point in my career, that’s pretty paramount for me.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais was a fan of what Bruce brought to the table behind the scenes, as he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk last Wednesday.

“Jay Bruce carries a lot of weight in our clubhouse because Jay’s been around a long time, he’s been in situations where teams have struggled,” Servais said. “… Watching how he’s handled all this has been a bright spot for me. I got a lot of respect for Jay. He’s done a great job with Daniel Vogelbach keeping Vogey in a good spot, and Jay’s not afraid to speak his voice. It’s easier when you’re hitting .280, but Jay’s been a really positive guy in our clubhouse.”

The 32-year-old Bruce, a three-time All-Star who previously played with the Reds, Indians and Mets, will give the Phillies some options off the bench as a left-handed power bat that can play both in the outfield and at first base, though left field figures to be his main position in Philadelphia. That’s because Andrew McCutchen recently shifted from left to center field to replace Odubel Herrera, who the MLB put on administrative leave under the league’s domestic violence policy after he was arrested and charged with assault.

For the Mariners, Bruce’s departure will clear a path to more playing time for up-and-coming first baseman/designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach. Seattle needed to find Bruce enough playing time to showcase him to potential trade partners, but with a full outfield of Domingo Santana, Mallex Smith and Mitch Haniger, a logjam was created at first base and DH. Bruce’s at-bats in Seattle typically came at the expense of either Vogelbach or Edwin Encarnación, another former All-Star slugger in his 30s the M’s are showcasing in the hopes of finding a team to trade him to.

Attention will now turn to the remaining proven players on the Mariners roster that Dipoto could trade for additional help in Seattle’s rebuild effort. With the Mariners’ blistering 13-2 start now a distant memory – they entered Sunday at 25-36 and just finished a franchise-worst 7-21 in the month of May – MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners are shopping Encarnación along with fellow veterans Dee Gordon, Tim Beckham and Mike Leake (no surprises there), plus 27-year-old corner infielder Ryon Healy (perhaps a bit of a surprise there).

The Bruce trade is the most notable trade of the season thus far for the Mariners, but it wasn’t the first to send a player from Seattle’s MLB roster elsewhere. Dipoto shipped struggling veteran reliever Anthony Swarzak and cash to the Braves not even two weeks previous for a younger struggling bullpen arm in 27-year-old left-hander Jesse Biddle. To take Swarzak off the Mariners’ hands, the Braves also made Seattle take injured closer Arodys Vizcaino, who is out for the season following shoulder surgery and whose contract is up at the end of 2019.

Like Bruce, Swarzak came to the Mariners in an offseason blockbuster trade with the Mets that rid Seattle of Robinson Canó’s problematic long-term contract and netted them an impressive haul of prospects (including 19-year-old phenom Jarred Kelenic) but cost them All-Star closer Edwin Díaz and required them to take on the baggage that were the contracts of Bruce and Swarzak.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dipoto: Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic’s timeline ‘ahead of schedule’