Mariners still figuring out logjam with Vogelbach, Bruce and Encarnación
May 7, 2019, 12:55 PM | Updated: 1:00 pm
The Mariners entered 2019 with several options at first base and designated hitter, and with the season now over a month old, the logjam hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s only getting trickier to manage.
Veteran slugger Edwin Encarnación isn’t slowing down, already up to 10 home runs with a .377 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage. Jay Bruce is tied for second in the American League with 11 home runs, though he is hitting just .176. And Daniel Vogelbach, who at 26 years old figures to be a big part of the Mariners’ future, has nine homers and a 1.095 OPS primarily being used against right-handed pitchers.
It was expected coming into the season that Seattle would look to trade both Encarnación, 36, and Bruce, 32, to playoff contenders and add more young players to their rebuilding effort. General manager Jerry Dipoto also said the M’s were committed to finding out if Vogelbach “can transition to the big leagues.”
“Last year we just didn’t have the at-bats to give him at the major league level to find out where he was. This year we will,” Dipoto said about Vogelbach late in spring training to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore.
Vogelbach has held up his end of the bargain with his bat, but his 111 plate appearances rank ninth on the team, below both Encarnación (146 PAs) and Bruce (120).
— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) May 4, 2019
Jon Morosi, MLB insider for the MLB Network and FOX Sports, told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Tuesday that Vogelbach shouldn’t be waiting for more opportunities.
“With Vogelbach, you have to take a look at his value for this team’s future,” Morosi said. “When you’ve got a guy who’s OPS-ing better than 1.000, it’s kinda hard to keep him on the bench just from a standpoint of the competitiveness of your ball club. To me, Vogelbach has earned the right to be in the lineup and I would expect to see him a lot over the coming weeks until he plays himself out of the lineup.”
So where does that leave Bruce and Encarnación?
While Morosi still thinks the Mariners will be able to move Bruce to another team before the July 31 trade deadline, he expects the outfielder/first baseman to see less playing time going forward due to the performances of Vogelbach and Encarnación.
“We’ve seen Bruce in the past be a midseason acquisition. I think the power is there, he’s a very streaky hitter,” Morosi said. “Certainly the average is way low, but 11 homers is 11 homers. I think that you probably look at him as he’s not going to bring you back a (top-level) prospect but he might bring you back a guy.
“… I think Encarnación probably has a bit more value in the market than Bruce does, and then Vogelbach, you have to see what you’ve got with him. To me, you play him as much as you can and then maybe that means Bruce has to just get his (at-bats) in the outfield when available or an odd day against a tough righty when you’re sitting Edwin – but that’s a pretty rare day.”
As for Encarnación, Morosi said he should have a pretty strong trade market even though his contract ($20 million in 2019, $20 million club option in 2020 with a $5 million buyout, per Spotrac) is more hefty than Bruce’s ($13 million each this year and next).
“I think there might be a broader market for Edwin than Bruce, just because of his track record (and) I think he has put together a much more impressive season so far than Bruce has,” Morosi said. “This guy is slugging better than .500 – I mean, he’s still a really good player. I realize the defensive versatility may not be there and that hurts you a little bit, but that’s a major league hitter. He’s already got 10 homers, 23 RBIs right now – that’s a pretty good start to the year for a player some people thought was getting up there in years and was a bit too old. I compare him and his track record maybe a little bit to Nelson Cruz just in the sustainability of his success.”
To hear the full segment from Brock and Salk with Morosi, which includes much more on the Mariners, listen in the player embedded in this post or download a podcast version at this link.