How the Seattle Mariners tied up another loose end with Edwin Encarnación trade
It was only a matter of time before the Mariners found a deal for our local parrot-flying friend. And today, in bittersweet fashion, the time has officially come.
Edwin Encarnación surprised me this year. After being dealt to a team with rebuilding aspirations in the Mariners, by a team that reacquired its old first baseman in favor of him—for him!—it was reasonable to expect Encarnación to be less than thrilled by this sudden, massive change in his career.
For as slow as Encarnación has notoriously started each season, and how genuinely unenthused he appeared to be during Spring Training, this felt like it could have turned sour rather quick. Admittedly, I didn’t know a lot about Encarnación’s character back then.
After getting to see him as a Seattle Mariner for the last three-or-so months, he was one of the most selfless and delightful veterans to have made their way through the Emerald City during this bleak time in the organization’s history. The same can be said about the recently departed Jay Bruce, who also proved to be a strong presence in a young clubhouse.
Like Bruce, Encarnación had been acquired by the Mariners this past offseason with a caveat. Encarnación had essentially been the final shoe to drop in a trade that happened over six months ago, when the Mariners dealt Jean Segura to the Phillies for J.P. Crawford and the hefty contract of Carlos Santana.
The Mariners then flipped Santana to Cleveland for Encarnación and the 76th overall pick in this year’s draft, which turned out to be Isaiah Campbell. Encarnación was coming off a down year for him, but still relatively productive, and had just a year left on his deal at $21.6 million with a $5 million buyout for 2020.
It wasn’t going to be easy, and it didn’t feel like it would net the Mariners a whole lot, but he was tradable. How tradable? Given his lack of defensive playing time over the past two seasons, his market felt limited to a handful of teams in a weak American League.
Encarnación not only exceeded expectations offensively, especially early on, but he transcended the consensus label placed on him as an exclusive designated hitter and played a solid first base for the Mariners in 45 games—just one shy of his 2017 and 2018 totals combined. This had now opened up his market to a broader group of teams from both the American and National Leagues, and gave Seattle a better chance of acquiring something of worth for him after all.
Ironically, Encarnación wound up going to one of the few American League teams that made sense for him during the offseason. Now that Encarnación is a member of the New York Yankees, and the Mariners have reacquired 19-year-old pitching prospect Juan Then, the thread of the controversial Segura deal appears to be complete.
I’m one of the many Mariners fans who felt the compensation Dipoto received from the Phillies for Segura was a biiiiit light. But as time went on, and Seattle had acquired Encarnación, the deal felt a bit more palatable because of how incomplete it still felt.
In essence, the Mariners turned Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos into Crawford, Campbell, and Then—which, at a glance, is comparable to the return on the James Paxton deal, if not better. Perhaps now that this string is finalized and the compensation can be viewed as so, more will come around to the idea as a whole, especially as Crawford continues to crush Major League pitching.
They’re certainly far from done still, but the Mariners have added yet another prospect who will definitely slide their way into our Top 30 (which we’ll be re-ranking soon, FYI). Of course, they’re eating a bit of money to go along with it (seems to be about half), but they did well in this deal.
With that, I’ll sign off with a simple ‘thank you’ to Edwin Encarnación for the 21-parrot salute and good luck in New York. October will be a lot more fun with you.