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With trade rumors swirling, Jay Bruce not in Mariners lineup

Mariners OF/1B Jay Bruce is tied for ninth in the American League with 14 home runs. (AP)

It’s not all that uncommon for the Mariners to start a game without veteran slugger Jay Bruce in their lineup, but there was a little more intrigue to his absence from Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.

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Several reports from MLB insiders are making the rounds that the Mariners are engaged in talks with the Phillies about a trade involving Bruce, something first reported Saturday morning by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, a regular guest on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk. So while normally it wouldn’t be news that the M’s sat the lefty-hitting Bruce against Angels left-handed starter Andrew Heaney, this was a little different.

By late Saturday night it had progressed past idle chatter, with FOX MLB insider Ken Rosenthal tweeting that the two sides were “nearing completion” of a deal.

It’s no secret that the Mariners have been looking for a trade partner to take Bruce off their hands pretty much since they acquired him in a blockbuster offseason trade with the New York Mets, a transaction that brought a significant haul of prospects to Seattle but also saw the two teams swap aging veterans with hefty contracts. The 32-year-old Bruce is one of those veterans, as while he has made three All-Stars teams in his career the last was in 2016, and he still has a $14 million salary owed to him both this year and in 2020.

Something that could be a hurdle in a Bruce trade is the fact that he has a no-trade clause, though Rosenthal tweeted that Bruce would waive his no-trade clause to go to Philadelphia.

Bruce hit his 300th career home run on Friday night to help the Mariners beat the Angels 4-3. He has provided plenty of pop in somewhat limited playing time – his 14 home runs (in 47 games) are tied for ninth in the American League – and he has a strong .816 OPS, but he has also been somewhat of an all-or-nothing hitter with a .212 batting average and .283 on-base percentage.

The Phillies are said to be in the market for a bat off the bench, and Bruce could fit the bill as a lefty hitter who can be plugged in either in the outfield or at first base.

Passan initially reported Saturday morning that a “club source familiar with the talks” told ESPN that the Mariners and Phillies were nearing a deal and that a trade was expected to come through in the next 24 hours, but he followed up with a tweet citing a different source that though the two clubs have been discussing a move involving Bruce, no deal was imminent.

It wasn’t until Rosenthal’s report Saturday night that any insight on the possible return the Mariners could receive for Bruce had been disclosed. Rosenthal was also the first to report that Seattle would likely include cash in a deal to help ease the financial burden that the addition of Bruce would come with for Philadelphia.

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