It feels like an appropriate time to talk about Edwin Encarnacion – with his two homers yesterday, including the 400th of his career – and it’s been something I’ve been thinking about since the Jay Bruce deal: is it fair to assume the Mariners will get more in an Encarnacion trade?
I mean, after all, we’re talking about a guy right now who’s hitting .245/.356/.532, with 20 homers, 7 doubles, and 46 RBI. He’s primarily played first base and has done pretty well there for someone who was thought to only be a DH. Compare that to Jay Bruce, who before the trade was hitting .212/.283/.533, with 14 homers, 11 doubles, and 28 RBI. While you could argue there’s slightly more value in Bruce’s defensive ability – as he can play first base and the corner outfield without embarrassing himself – I think we can all agree who has been the superior hitter both this year and in recent seasons.
Now, obviously, their contract situations are different. Bruce had 2020 guaranteed, whereas there’s only a club option for 2020 on Encarnacion; we’re talking about the prorated portion of $20 million for this year, and $5 million for next year’s buyout. Either way, the Mariners will have to send money to the other team to get any sort of prospect back in return. So, other than that, the question is – money being equal – will the Mariners get MORE back in return?
I feel like the obvious answer is Yes, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. For starters, there is the fact that Bruce is at least able to play the outfield; that opens up a lot more spots for him. As a 1B/DH, we’re talking about 29 other first base openings, and only 14 other DH openings. Most teams are pretty set at those spots, and I don’t think anyone is going to trade for Encarnacion to be a bench bat.
The other issue – which I don’t think gets brought up enough – is that there’s always a premium for quality left-handed bats, particularly for teams in contention. Right-handers are a dime a dozen in baseball, and right-handed power bats who can’t play the outfield have the lowest value imaginable; they’re like running backs in football. In the 90’s, they were all the rage, but not anymore.
That’s why I’m okay with hanging onto Encarnacion for as long as it takes. At this point, the Mariners need to be rooting for another team’s 1B/DH to get injured, while still being in the race for a playoff spot. I would like to think, with how well he’s been playing, that there will be a market at SOME point, because it’s ridiculous that he’s languishing on a terrible team with the year he’s having. Encarnacion deserves better, is what I’m getting at. And, the Mariners deserve to be rewarded for making the savvy move to bring him in here in the first place.
Let’s hope the rest of baseball does right by all of us.