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Mariners trade deadline primer, part 1: The 2 players most likely to be dealt

Mariners 1B/DH Edwin Encarnación is on pace for 47 homers and likely to be traded. (AP)

We’re inside the two-month mark until the annual July 31 MLB trade deadline, and that is plenty close enough to start speculating which Mariners players could be wearing different uniforms by August.

The list is long, too.

Drayer: Encarnación’s unexpected M’s tenure is worth appreciating

Throughout the week we’ll take a closer look at the players most likely to be dealt, the ones Seattle will actively shop, and the younger players that the Mariners might consider parting with for the right deal.

First up are the players that are the highest priorities for Seattle to deal.

Edwin Encarnación, DH/1B

Key stats: .245 average, .888 OPS, 20 home runs, 46 RBIs

Jay Bruce hit his 300th career home run on May 31 in a Mariners win over the Angels. His next at-bat came in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

Encarnación, meanwhile, hit his 400th career home run on Sunday in another Mariners win over the Angels, and as you might expect there were a few jokes on Twitter going around about whether he might face a similar fate. It seems pretty unlikely the parrot has flown for the last time for the Mariners, but don’t count on Encarnación being around for too much longer.

With 20 homers already, Encarnación is on pace for 47 this season, which would be a career-high – pretty impressive considering he is 36 and last topped the 40-homer mark in 2016. And while playing the field has never really been his forte, he has shown with the M’s that he can play an adequate first base, maybe even well enough that some National League teams might consider bringing him in to add some thump to their lineup.

Encarnación comes with a hefty price (his 2019 salary is $20 million and he has a 2020 team option that includes a $5 million buyout, per spotrac.com), but the M’s have shown they are willing to help pay contracts of players they’re trading as long as it means they’re freeing up space and getting a prospect or two in return.

Getting NL teams to join the mix will be crucial, though, because the American League doesn’t have many contenders with room for Encarnación on their rosters. Seattle has basically been trying to unload Encarnación since general manager Jerry Dipoto got him from Cleveland in the offseason, with Tampa Bay being the likely landing spot for him. The Rays still make the most sense to trade for Encarnación, as MLB insider Jon Morosi told Brock and Salk late last month, but unless more teams show interest in him, it will be hard for the M’s to get the kind of deal they’re looking for.

Mike Leake, RHP

Key stats: 5-6 record, 4.30 ERA, threw complete game in last start

Leake almost didn’t make this list, as he was reportedly almost traded before his last outing. That deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t materialize, but that’s not to say it won’t sooner or later.

The 31-year-old Leake is still a serviceable veteran rotation piece who is prone to streaks. Luckily for the Mariners he’s on a good one right now, and it would behoove them to move him before the wind changes direction again.

He has earned the win in each of his last two starts – no small feat considering how rarely the M’s end up on the winning side of the equation these days. Leake threw seven innings of two-run ball with five hits and no walks allowed in a May 31 win over the Angels, then went the distance in a 14-1 victory over the Astros on June 5, yielding just one run on five hits and two walks.

Leake’s contract is a tough pill to swallow, however, and Seattle would no doubt eat some salary to get something back in return. Per spotrac, he is making $16 million this year, $15 million in 2019 and has a mutual option at $18 million with a $5 million buyout in 2020. He also has a no-trade clause, but if the M’s end up working out a deal with Arizona that shouldn’t be a problem as Leake reportedly was set to waive that clause to join a team that plays just miles from where he starred in college at Arizona State.

Even if Arizona doesn’t end up being where Leake lands, the M’s should be able to get a market going for him. Playoff-hopeful teams can never have enough pitching, after all. The Mariners just have to hope Leake will be willing to waive his no-trade for teams other than the D-backs.

Further reading

Moore: Vote for Vogey — Vogelbach should be Mariners’ All-Star
Will Mike Leake be the next veteran sent out of town in a Mariners trade?
Mariners picked good year to be sellers on trade market, but there’s a catch
Drayer: Jay Bruce trade starts the next step in Mariners’ rebuilding process