In last week’s chat, I was asked which MLB player would be the next to be moved via trade. My mind immediately went to one place: the Mariners. GM Jerry Dipoto’s reputation precedes him. And he’s in a dealing mood, having already swung one deal on an expensive veteran and tried to work out another. But when it came to naming the specific player, it seemed too pedestrian to guess starter Mike Leake, who has already come up in talks, or pick an easy-come, easy-go reliever.
Instead, I went with veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion, a long-time star who has been out of the spotlight of late. He’s hitting well, sure, but does EE even have a strong market right now? Let’s take a closer look.
The M’s ended up with Encarnacion when the music stopped on a dizzying game of lumbering slugger musical chairs over the offseason. It seemed at one point he’d be shipped elsewhere over the winter, but that didn’t come to pass. He is earning a $20MM salary this year. There’s also a $5MM buyout on a 2020 option, though the complicated trade that brought Encarnacion to Seattle included a $5MM payment to cover that amount.
With that kind of coin still owed, Encarnacion’s contract is unquestionably under water. He’s 36 years old and was merely good at the plate last year. He has mostly been limited to DH duties in recent seasons, though he has lined up at first base thus far in 2019 with palatable metrics.
On the other hand, Encarnacion can really hit. He’s back in business thus far, making the ’18 output look like a minor blip. Through 283 plate appearances, Encarnacion carries a .246/.360/.542 slash — that’s good for a healthy 143 wRC+ — and leads the American League with 21 round-trippers.
The M’s won’t shed all the remaining money owed, but they could well dump a significant portion of it. There’s even an argument to be made that the ’20 club option could be worthwhile; given the hefty buyout price, the $20MM rate of pay is effectively a $15MM decision. The Twins spent $14.3MM on Nelson Cruz this past winter and certainly don’t regret it.