As one of the few who hoped Edwin Encarnacion would stay a Mariner long-term, you can kiss that thought goodbye.
The 2019 Mariners doesn’t have the bullpen horses to contend and are too far under .500 at this point. So as the Mariners will be sellers this summer, let’s simulate a trade of Edwin Encarnacion to the AL East’s biggest surprise, the Rays.
This trade would help the Mariners in that they are giving Tampa a playoff-experienced slugger while landing a couple young Rays in this continued rebuild. Despite not the world’s highest average, Edwin’s slugger status hasn’t gone away as a Mariner. And six of his already 20 homers have come in pairs. Yesterday’s win featured his third two-homer game of the season, with two of them coming against the Angels. And who could forget his two-homer inning against the Royals back when things looked significantly better for the M’s in the standings?
His 400th homer today caps the fact that he’s done all he can as a Mariner. And hopefully that historic homer marketed him more to contenders. If Jay Bruce was traded to a contender, it’s only fair Edwin follow not far after. If the 2019 contenders are smart, then he is a hot on-the-market designated hitter/first base power bat. And from Seattle’s end of the trade, Dipoto should pursue a couple relievers for Edwin to bolster this painful bullpen.
First up is Tampa’s rookie southpaw, Jalen Beeks. A former 12th-round pick by Boston, this guy is having a solid year. He’s rocking five wins and a 2.76 ERA through 15 outings, a save included. A plus about the 25-year old is that he’s been an innings-eater this year, going three-plus innings of relief in 12 of his outings. He could provide some much-needed long relief to one of the worst bullpens in the bigs. And as one of multiple Rays pitchers with an ERA at 2.00 or lower, Beeks is expendable.
Now let’s complete this deal with a reliever from a Rays’ farm system ranked towards the top. GM Erik Neander wouldn’t give the M’s his top two pitching prospects for a player they may just acquire as a rental also. You can cross off Brendan McKay and Brent Honeywell. So that the Rays don’t have to give up too high of a pitching prospect, we’ll aim for acquire righty Ian Gibaut in this simulation. The man was an 11th-round draft pick in 2015 and moved up from 25th-best prospect this preseason to 24th.
Last year, no other AAA International League bullpen man had a lower opponent batting average. And per Gibaut’s Prospect Watch scouting report, his changeup, fastball, and slider trio make him “effective against right and left-handed hitters alike.” For a current bullpen that’s ineffective against most hitters, this is good to hear. And oh yeah, that same report labeled Gibaut as a potential “high-leverage reliever in the big leagues.” Could we see a future answer to Seattle’s struggle for any kind of decent long relief?
Wouldn’t it be sweet irony with Edwin traded to Rays? After landing as a Mariner in December, this would officially complete that three-team deal with Tampa and Cleveland half a year later. The only bigger irony would be if Mike Zunino were flipped back here with his .188 average. So from the Rays’ perspective, they land a veteran power hitter. Not to mention, the Mariners will likely have to pay for the majority of Encarnacion’s remaining salary for this season and would ideally come to Tampa practically free of charge.
And with games like his two-homer one yesterday, Edwin’s a guy who could rattle a pitching staff. Looking at Tampa’s current roster, not one guy is in the same sphere as him. But with current cleanup man Avisail Garcia hitting almost .300, keep him as incumbent cleanup and give Edwin the five-hole.
Acquiring Edwin would be a pennant race statement by Tampa and just the piece they need to go for the East. They may be tied with the Yanks and ahead of the Sox, but still lack the horses their rivals have. And with an already strong pitching staff, they could afford to deal two relievers Seattle’s way.