The Seattle Mariners are still looking to dump some players as they continue to rebuild their roster. Perhaps the next Mariner to be dealt is one who has never put on the uniform.
We are of course talking about Mariners DH Edwin Encarnacion. Jon Morosi reported that the team is “increasingly optimistic” they will trade Encarnacion before Spring Training opens up in mid-February.
Amongst the 3 teams with the most interest in the 34-year-old is the Tampa Bay Rays. Encarnacion also is drawing interest from the White Sox and Astros. But the Rays are an interesting fit. It was long rumored that the Rays have been interested in Encarnacion, and were set to acquire him before the 3-team deal sent “E5” to Seattle.
The Rays then backed off and pursed former Mariners DH Nelson Cruz. When Cruz signed with the Minnesota Twins this week, the Rays, Astros, and White Sox reportedly turned their attention to Encarnacion.
The Rays certainly have a deep farm system with lots of goodies for the Mariners to consider. However, there are some significant hurdles the sides will need to clear. First, is the contract of Encarnacion. Due to make $20 million in 2019 with a $5 million buyout for 2020, the Rays are not going to take on that big of a salary.
However, we know the Rays made a “competitive offer” to Cruz, who signed a 1-year, $14 million deal with a $12 million team option for 2020. Therefore, we must assume they were willing to sign Cruz for around $14 million in 2019. This means the Mariners will have to eat somewhere between $10-$15 million on Encarnacion, and still may not recoup a prospect worth their time.
Even in doing that, the Mariners will still have to deal with the Jose Martinez possibility, who is younger, cheaper, and has more club control than Encarnacion. Of course, for the Rays, that means giving up more prospect capital. While the Rays have a deep farm, it is possible they’ll still prefer Encarnacion because he will cost them fewer quality prospects.
Again, there are a lot of roadblocks in this potential swap. But we aren’t going to leave you guys without a deal to ponder. So, here is our proposal:
So no, the Mariners won’t be getting any “major” prospects for Encarnacion, at least not from the Rays. However, they aren’t exactly getting “nothing” either. Grant Witherspoon was the Rays 4th round pick in the 2018 draft, and when you look at his profile, it is very Dipoto”ish”.
A good athlete who had middling success at Tulane before a swing change between his sophomore and junior season unlocked some natural power. Sound familiar? Perhaps it should, because it is an eerily similar profile to Jake Fraley, whom the club acquired from the Rays in the Mike Zunino trade earlier this winter.
In his final year at Tulane, Witherspoon hit .330/.436/.587 with 12 home runs and 13 steals in 58 games. Witherspoon isn’t a refined defender in centerfield but has the speed and arm to play all 3 outfield spots well.
While he hasn’t appeared above Rookie ball yet, at 22-years-old Witherspoon has the potential to rise quickly through the minors thanks to his relatively high ceiling. He may never have enough power or bat skill to be a full-time regular, his plate discipline, athleticism, and defense should see him have a nice career as a 4th outfielder with the potential for more.
Finally, the Mariners acquire Tanner Dodson to round out the deal. Yes, I know asking for the 71st pick in the recent MLB draft seems like a stretch. But Carlos Santana just went for the 77th pick, and Seattle is eating money and sending a reliever to Tampa, so let’s roll with it.
Dodson spent his college career at Cal-Berkeley, finding success as both a hitter and pitcher in the PAC-12. Most believe Dodson will find most of his success on the mound, where his 96 MPH fastball and sharp slider set a high floor as a nice middle reliever.
Dodson has a lot of effort in his delivery, which leads to obvious concerns about his durability. He also lacks a 3rd quality offering, which may limit him to the bullpen as well. The changeup flashes average but is still nothing to consider decent 3rd pitch.
However, as you might expect from the two-way player, Dodson is a good athlete and any team who has him in their system are banking on the athlete finding something valuable at the big league level.
The proposal discussed gives the Rays a DH similar to Nelson Cruz at the price point they are comfortable, without costing them any high-upside prospects who could help a contending team before 2021. For the Mariners, they get two prospects who will slot around 15th (Dodson) and 25(Witherspoon) in their prospect ranks and have a possibility to be contributors in their stated window.
One thing is for sure, the Mariners and Rays are not as natural of a fit for Encarnacion as they have been in other trades. However, you cannot rule out these two franchise making a trade ever, so we will continue to monitor the news and see where Encarnacion will actually get his at-bats this year.