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Morosi: Mariners in ‘very delicate situation’ ahead of trade deadline

Mike Leake is one of the players likely to be traded by the Mariners before July 31. (AP)

General manager Jerry Dipoto and the Seattle Mariners have made it clear that they aren’t going to waste any time before baseball’s July 31 trade deadline.

Drayer: For M’s, there’s more to Encarnación trade than meets the eye

Last weekend’s trade of AL home run leader Edwin Encarnación to the Yankees for 19-year-old pitching prospect Juan Then was already the second major deal pulled off by Dipoto this month, following the trade of Jay Bruce to the Phillies for minor league infielder Jake Scheiner. The Mariners, clearly in sell mode as they aim to shed payroll and add young talent to their farm system to bolster their rebuild, are likely far from done on the trade market, too.

“I think that there are probably very, very few players that are truly off-limits for the Mariners,” said Jon Morosi, MLB insider for MLB Network and FOX Sports, to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Tuesday.

One of the players who is surely not off-limits is veteran starting pitcher Mike Leake. But after the Mariners received a prospect who has several minor league levels between him and the big leagues in return for Encarnación, Morosi said M’s fans should temper expectations about what kind of player Seattle might get in a Leake trade.

“Mike Leake has value because of his durability, but I don’t think he’s gonna be somebody, especially because of his contract, that brings back a marquee prospect,” Morosi said, making reference to Leake’s contract that, according to spotrac.com, includes a $16 million salary this year, $15 million in 2020 and includes an $18 million team option for 2021 with a $5 million buyout.

The Encarnación trade has raised some eyebrows because it seemed to have more to do with clearing space on Seattle’s payroll than acquiring the best possible prospect, and it has Morosi wondering if that will turn out to be a trend in the Mariners’ trades to come before July 31.

“For someone of Encarnación’s caliber, pedigree, I would have thought that they could have done a bit more in terms of maybe a higher-level guy, a little bit closer to the big leagues, a little more of a sure thing,” Morosi said in regards to the acquisition of Then, who the M’s had previously traded to New York in 2017. “In general, a curious situation to re-acquire a prospect that you once had a year later. Then again, they know the player well. … I just thought it was a little early to go and get a prospect that far down (in the minor leagues), but one aspect you can’t overlook is the financial one.

“… The Mariners are in a very delicate situation from the standpoint of you only have a handful of assets that you can move for real value and that deepens maybe why there was the disappointment of not getting a higher-level guy back for Encarnación, (and now fans are) not really sure how good of a guy you’ll be able to get back, for example, with Leake. If the same thought process goes with him, that you’re looking for salary relief as opposed to the very best prospect, you’re gonna get a similar return. It’s gonna be a similarly low-level player that you get back. It’s a very, very dicey situation when you think about moving players this early in the game when finances are a big part of the reason why you’re moving them.”

You can listen to the full segment with Morosi in the player embedded in this post or download a podcast version here.

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