TODAY: The Mariners “have shown a willingness to eat significant money in” trades, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets, and “almost every veteran on their roster” is available. We’ve seen the first instance of this earlier today, as Seattle covered $18MM of the approximately $21.5MM remaining on Jay Bruce’s contract in trading Bruce to the Phillies.
SATURDAY: The Mariners, who’ve gone a staggering 12-33 after a 13-2 start in which the club made its fans forget the cavernous dimensions of T-Mobile Park, are “deep in sell mode,” tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, who lists Edwin Encarnacion, Ryon Healy, Dee Gordon, Mike Leake and Tim Beckham among the players the club is “talking” about.
None in the group seem likely to net a significant return – the 36-year-old Encarnacion may be the most attractive piece, despite the some $18MM remaining on his contract – though it’s possible GM Jerry Dipoto would simply like to clear space for younger players. One feather in Encarnacion’s (and the Mariners’) cap is his renewed vigor in the infield: the one-time third-baseman is on pace for the most first-base innings in his fifteen-year career, and has thus far been surprisingly adequate at the position, per both DRS and UZR. The aging slugger, who’s now just seven homers shy of 400 for his career, seemed on a clear DH-only trajectory after two seasons in Cleveland where he totaled just 388 innings at the position, but has nearly eclipsed that mark in just two short months in Seattle. The three-time all-star’s on pace for nearly 3.0 fWAR in ’19, with a hard-hit rate hovering around his peak average, though teams aren’t typically clamoring for 1B/DHs in the rental market, even one with a track record as glowing as Edwin’s.
Thirty-one year-old Gordon, twice an all-star earlier in his career, is still owed approximately $22MM on his deal through 2020, and may indeed have negative surplus value at this point. After a poor 2018 showing, in which the second baseman-turned-center-fielder posted 0.1 fWAR on the back of a 77 wRC+ and hard-to-fathom 1.5% BB rate, the again infielder hasn’t been much better this year, posting just a .281/.310/.369 line (85 wRC+) with a stolen-base rate that doesn’t even begin to approach the standard he’d set from 2014-17. It’s true that Gordon’s ground-ball rate has dropped below 50% for the first time in his career, and that he’s flashing a bit more power than usual, but it’s hard to foresee this profile netting much more than a bit of salary relief.
Mix-and-match artist Leake, now 31 and with over 1,700 big-league innings under his belt, is still owed upwards of $30MM on his deal that extends through 2020 and is currently in midst of the worst season of his career. Leake’s homer rate has skyrocketed to an a galactical 2.23 per nine, thanks mostly to a career-low grounder rate and an average fastball velocity that’s down over four MPH from his 2015 peak of 93.1. FanGraphs places Leake’s value at below replacement-level this season, and peripheral markers aren’t encouraged. His value would seem to mirror Gordon’s closely.
Former number-one overall pick Beckham appeared to have finally turned the corner this season after an early-season hot streak that catapulted him to the top of the league’s leaders in nearly every relevant statistical category. Still sporting an impressive 119 wRC+, Beckham’s secondary markers appear much the same as in years past: his 6.3% walk rate aligns exactly with his career total, and the 30% K rate is actually higher than the standard he’d set in the four years previous. Beckham’s .342 wOBA, on the strength of a middling 32% hard-hit rate, isn’t sustainable, per Statcast, who estimates his true (expected) wOBA title at just .312. The 29-year-old’s defense, too, has been far less than stellar this season, with DRS pegging him at a particularly cruel -7 runs saved already. He’s in his second-to-last year of arbitration, and may yet be a utility target for some contending clubs, but not one that’s likely to yield a blue-chipper in return.
Lesser names, like Healy, Wade LeBlanc, Hunter Strickland, and Domingo Santana, whose 119 wRC+ has been almost entirely offset by poor corner defense, aren’t likely to be coveted on the market. Third baseman Kyle Seager has been hurt for much of the early season, and recent-years returns are probably enough for interested teams to leave the some $50MM remaining on his deal behind.
If Dipoto is feeling particularly frisky, the team could try dangling each of Daniel Vogelbach, Mitch Haniger, Marco Gonzales, and Omar Narvaez to interested teams, though it seems the club is set on contending in the near future, and each of those players are controlled through at least the 2022 season.