Posted on June 16, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Even with plenty of offensive firepower preparing to return from the Injured List, the New York Yankees decided to add a little more. Saturday night, the Yankees completed a trade with the Seattle Mariners for Edwin Encarnacion, the current American League leader in home runs. Seattle is receiving pitching prospect Juan Then as part of the trade. The Mariners are also paying part of the $15 million Encarnacion is due for the rest of the season, including his $5 million buyout for next year.
The 36-year-old Encarnacion spent less than half a season in Seattle. He spent the last two years in Cleveland before being traded to the Mariners last winter. He’ll now spend the rest of the 2019 season in New York, helping the Yankees chase a title.
Even as he moves into the later stages of his career, Encarnacion remains one of the best power hitters in the game. Over the last seven seasons, he’s hit at least 32 home runs and posted an OPS of at least .810. To be fair, his lows during that span both came last season. However, he’s had a slight resurgence this season, hitting .242 with an OPS of .888. Encarnacion also has 21 home runs, putting him on pace to set a new career-high.
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With the Yankees, Encarnacion will likely share duties at first base and the DH spot with Luke Voit. The Yankees had been using Kendrys Morales in that role. However, he had been hitting just .194 before going on the IL with a calf injury earlier this week. The only caveat of adding Encarnacion is that the Yankees will have less flexibility to DH their outfielders when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo return from injury. However, it’ll be worth it to add more power to a lineup that’s already top-10 in runs scored despite all of the injuries that have plagued New York this season.
“He’s a pro and he’s going to fit in great here, and I know he’s going to be excited to come here,” said Yankees starter JA Happ, a longtime teammate of Encarnacion in Toronto. “He doesn’t say much, but he works hard and is prepared.”
As for Seattle, this trade continues a massive fire sale that began over the winter. With the Mariners playing for the future, they had no need for Encarnacion. By trading him, they have opened the door to give more consistent playing time to younger players. They have also reacquired Then, who signed with the Mariners in 2016 but was traded to the Yankees in 2017. The 19-year-old is now Seattle’s no. 16 ranked prospect, according to MLB.com.
“We get a young prospect, a player that we’re familiar with that had been in our organization,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “Juan’s a great kid. His stuff has really jumped. Velocity and breaking ball, we really like it. It’s a guy who has a chance to start. He’s a young pitcher that fits kind of in the mix of guys that we just drafted. It’s a nice arm to bring back.”
It’s also worth noting that this probably won’t be Seattle’s last trade this summer. The Mariners are rumored to be open just about anyone on their roster making a significant amount of money. They still have a few players who fit that description who could be moved before the trade deadline.
Of course, this trade is all about the Yankees improving their lineup. With Judge and Stanton likely to return before the end of the month and Encarnacion added to the mix, the Yankees will soon have a lineup with frightening amounts of power. They already have three players with at least 15 home runs this season and will add three more players who are home run threats every at-bat. Currently, the Yankees have a mere half-game lead atop the AL East. But Saturday’s trade makes clearcut favorites to win the division in 2019.