Veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion is expected to open camp with the Mariners after trade talks surrounding him failed to gain traction, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link). Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto is expected to continue exploring potential deals over the course of Spring Training as needs arise throughout the league, he notes. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times wrote over the weekend that interest in Encarnacion had faded. Encarnacion, among the game’s steadiest sluggers, has one year remaining on his three-year, $60MM contract and is almost certainly limited to American League clubs at this point of his career. An injury to a contender’s DH this spring could create some additional interest in Encarnacion, but a trade at this juncture doesn’t seem all that likely.
More from the division…
- Angels manager Brad Ausmus addressed the health of right-hander/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani today (Twitter link via Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group). While Ausmus didn’t want to get too specific in terms of providing a timeline for Ohtani’s return to the club following Tommy John surgery, the first-year Halos skipper indicated that the team expects Ohtani back at some point in May. He’ll be strictly limited to DH duties, of course, and it’s not yet clear exactly how often the Angels plan to get Ohtani’s bat into the lineup in the early stages of his recovery. One can imagine that the team will want to be particularly cautious, but the Angels will also want Ohtani in the lineup as often as possible after he hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers in just 367 plate appearances last season.
- Matt Chapman underwent thumb and shoulder surgeries this offseason, but the budding Athletics star looks to be on track for the season, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Chapman took 50 swings in a batting cage Monday, and while he might be limited early in camp, the expectation is that he’ll be ready for the season opener. Perhaps more interesting, Slusser writes in another column that the organization has “no qualms” about putting top prospect Jesus Luzardo in the rotation on Opening Day if he’s deemed the best option. If that is indeed the organization’s stance, it’s a departure from the manner in which many clubs think. Luzardo, just 21, is considered to be among the game’s most elite pitching prospects, ranking inside the game’s 20 best all-around prospects on multiple publications. Last year, at just 20 years old, he skyrocketed from Class-A Advanced to Triple-A, working to a combined 2.88 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over the course of 109 1/3 innings. Presently, the A’s will have Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson (assuming he passes his physical) in the rotation, with a pair of spots up for grabs, barring further additions.
- Infielder Matt Davidson chatted with MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan about his role with the Rangers this coming season. Davidson, signed as a corner infielder/reliever, indicated that he’s not expecting to be one of the team’s top seven or eight relievers. Rather, he’s aiming to be an option to pitch in the same capacity he did with the White Sox last year — as a mop-up reliever in blowout games. “I want to be the pitchers’ best friend,” said Davidson. “Nobody wants to go in when it is a 7-0 blowout. I want to be the guy that helps them out.” Davidson did toss three shutout innings last season, and it’s not out of the question entirely that he pitches more effectively than some would expect if given a few more opportunities. However, it sounds as if the early plan is for him to try to make the club as a bench piece and emergency option on the mound more than any type of regular bullpen piece.