After the Mariners acquired designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion from the Indians in a three-team trade in December, the retooling M’s informed the slugger they were planning on flipping him elsewhere for prospects, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. While Enarnacion did generate interest from a few other teams after Seattle acquired him, he’s still a member of the Mariners nearly two months after the fact. The reason? Potential suitors for Encarnacion have faded, Divish relays, making it possible the 36-year-old will at least open the season with the Mariners.
The Rays, Astros and White Sox were reportedly “involved” in talks for Encarnacion in late December. Tampa Bay showed no interest in trading for Encarnacion, however, even if the Mariners ate half of the remaining $25MM guarantee left on his contract, according to Divish. Meanwhile, although the Mariners did shop Encarnacion to division-rival Houston, the Astros appear content with Tyler White and Yuli Gurriel as their top DH/first base options, Divish suggests. As for the White Sox, they don’t look like a clean fit for Encarnacion given the presences of lumbering sluggers Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso.
With Encarnacion primarily being a DH at this juncture of his career, his market’s limited to the American League, where nobody is champing at the bit to acquire him, per Divish. The Mariners’ best hope of moving Encarnacion before the season may be if a contending team’s DH/first baseman suffers an injury during the spring, then, as Divish observes. Otherwise, it appears the M’s will be left to hope Encarnacion – a once-dominant offensive force who posted a 146 wRC+ and a major league-best 231 home runs from 2012-17 – can rebuild his stock in their uniform leading up to the July and August trade deadlines. Encarnacion did belt 32 homers in 579 PAs last year – his seventh straight campaign with at least 30 HRs – though his .246/.336/.474 line and 115 wRC+ fell flat in comparison to his tremendous output over prior seasons.
Like Encarnacion, right-hander Felix Hernandez is potentially a year from free agency and may be in his last several months as a Mariner. And the M’s have even less hope of finding a taker for the formerly marvelous Hernandez, owing to both his team-high salary ($27.5MM) and the hideous 5.13 ERA/5.12 FIP he registered over 242 1/3 innings from 2017-18. Despite King Felix’s recent struggles, however, “all indications” are that he plans to his career beyond the upcoming season, Divish writes. Regardless, Hernandez will try to return to at least serving as a viable starter this year after an awful showing in 2018, when the M’s briefly relegated the 2010 AL Cy Young winner to their bullpen. Going forward, though, general manager Jerry Dipoto emphasized that the Mariners are planning on using Hernandez solely as a starter.