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Drayer: There’s more to Mariners’ trade of Encarnación than meets the eye

The Mariners sent AL home run leader Edwin Encarnación to the Yankees in a trade. (AP)

Following the Mariners’ 6-3 win Sunday over the A’s in Oakland, manager Scott Servais acknowledged that the team is in a stage of transition.

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“We’ve moved on from a few veteran players, giving opportunity to young guys,” Servais said. “The team is starting to realize that this is our team going forward. Coming out here and having a winning road trip is a good sign. We go back home and hopefully we can keep the momentum going there. It’s nice to see this team starting to come together. Certainly we had a rough May but as things settle down with our roster, hopefully we play a little better together.”

The team that returns to T-Mobile Park for a series with the Royals on Monday looks much different from the team that headed out on the road after going 3-8 on its previous homestand.

J.P. Crawford and Dee Gordon are back at shortstop and second base, respectively, and the logjam at first base has been alleviated. Two players who the Mariners hope will be a part of their future, Crawford and Daniel Vogelbach, will now be written into the lineup card on a daily basis. Crawford proved to be ready after making improvements when asked to start the season in Triple-A, and the path was cleared for Vogelbach to play either first base or designated hitter every day by the trades of Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnación.

Important moves in the step-back year.

There are certain to be more moves, as well. To be clear, this is not a “fire sale” as some members of the national media were tweeting throughout the weekend. Clearing way for younger players now in the organization and clearing payroll to add more in the future has always been part of the plan, and while moving older players with large salaries was always part of that plan, it is a task far easier said than done. Regardless, the commitment to move these players is on full display as evidenced by Saturday’s trade of Encarnación to the Yankees.

Encarnación quickly became a fan favorite, and deservedly so. His value in the eyes of Mariners fans, however, is much higher than those in baseball. The Mariners got the first taste of this when they attempted to trade him in the offseason right after acquiring him from Cleveland – there was absolutely no market for the 36-year-old designated hitter.

Over the last two years, teams have not been paying premium prices for bat-only players. When Nelson Cruz joined the Twins over the offseason, he received a contract far lighter than what a player at his age with the same numbers would have garnered a few years earlier, and a handful of hitters ranked a tier below Cruz went unsigned. For example, former Astros slugger Evan Gattis, who is just 32 and hit 25 home runs last year, remains a free agent.

The situation hasn’t changed much since the start of the season. The Mariners have been gauging the market for some time and options were minimal. They could have chosen to take the risk and hope that a contender lost a first baseman or DH to injury, but the belief was the return would not be significantly more in that situation.

The most obvious fit for Encarnación was the Tampa Bay Rays, who according to a source did make an offer. It is unlikely, however, that Tampa would take on significant dollars or offer a desired prospect for a rental DH. The Mariners have shown a willingness in their rebuild to eat large portions of contracts to get better prospects in trades, but it does not appear teams were willing to part with those players for Encarnación, even though he is currently the AL leader in home runs. Time will tell if this trend holds true leading up to the deadline.

For now, on the surface, the Encarnación trade is a tough one to swallow because it is hard to believe that he will not be of value to the Yankees. Regardless, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has stuck to plan, and in the end Encarnación remains a part of a deal that has brought plenty of value to the Mariners, as shown below. (Note: Dollar figures are ballpark)

What the Mariners got out of Edwin Encarnación

Dec. 3, 2018: Mariners trade Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio and James Pazos to the Phillies for J.P Crawford and Carlos Santana

Mariners clear $68,650,000 in salary
Take on $41,166,666
Net future savings $27,483,000

Dec. 13, 2018: Mariners trade Santana to Indians for Edwin Encarnación and competitive balance pick in three-way deal with Tampa Bay

• Mariners clear $41,166,666
• Take on $21,666,666 plus $5 million buyout
• Receive $5 million from Tampa
• Send $6 million to Cleveland
• Net $18.5 million

June 17, 2019: Mariners trade Encarnación to Yankees for Juan Then

Yankees pick up roughly $8 million of remaining salary

In total, Encarnación was part of deals that netted the Mariners their starting shortstop (Crawford), their No. 16 prospect according to MLB Pipeline (Then), the No. 76 overall MLB Draft pick (Isaiah Campbell) and around $54 million in future payroll savings.

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