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Breaking Down the Edwin Encarnación Trade: Dipoto, Then, EE, Money, and My Thoughts

Last night, the Yankees and the Mariners brokered a deal to send right-handed power-hitter Edwin Encarnación to the Bronx for 19 year-old pitching prospect Juan Then.

This morning, we are going to look at how the deal was able to happen (as the trade deadline isn’t for another month and a half), who Juan Then was for the Yankees, a quick profile on EE, making sense of the contract situation, and my quick thoughts about it all.

The New York Yankees have announced that they have acquired 1B/DH Edwin Encarnación from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for RHP Juan Then and cash considerations. — New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 16, 2019

How Did This Trade Happen? The Trade Deadline Isn’t Until July:

It should be to nobody’s surprise that the Seattle Mariners have decided to make a big trade by dealing away another veteran player who did have some sort of value in Edwin Encarnación.

First, you have to remember who the general manager of the Mariners is, Jerry Dipoto. He is a notorious GM on the transaction side of things- imagine the scene with Brad Pitt trading for Ricardo Rincon in Moneyball times ten- and had made trades from his hospital bed last December. He’s seriously dedicated to the craft of orchestrating trades.

Before this season started, during Dipoto’s tenure from September, 2015 to January, 2018 the Mariners had made far and away the most trades in baseball at 62, with the next closest Atlanta Braves as only 46.

However, just because Dipoto likes to make trades, that alone doesn’t give reason as to why they were so willing to trade away a veteran bat like Encarnación. However, recent moves have made this an expected trade to have happened sooner or later.

A teardown and rebuild of the Seattle Mariners was a serious discussion point about how the Mariners were going to look at their organization from this past offseason, and that officially seemed to move forward after the Phillies acquired Jay Bruce from them earlier this month.

It seemed as though the hot start the Mariners had to this season may have set back the teardown clock at they tried to compete for the AL West, but after starting 13-2, the team had collapsed into a 30-43 record at the time of last nights deal. From that blistering start, the Mariners have played to what would be the equivalent of winning about 47.5 games (.293 Winning Percentage) over the course of a season.

Effectively, this trade shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as the Mariners have a notorious GM for making trades, a rebuild had been rumored, and the team has a record that justifies getting value from veteran pieces.


Juan Then, pitching for the Seattle Mariners. How’d we get a photo so soon?

Juan Then, pitching for the Seattle Mariners. How’d we get a photo so soon?

Who was Juan Then?

Going into the season, Juan Then was regarded as a budding prospect, given his young age (19) and relative lack of game exposure through only two years in Rookie Ball. He ranked as the MLB Pipeline, Yankees 27th prospect, and according to Ken Rosenthal should be expected to move into the 10-15 range for the Mariners MLB Pipeline rankings.

To fans of the Mariners farm system, the right-hander Juan Then is actually a familiar face. He was an international free agent during the 2016 signing period, originally signing for $77,500 out of the Dominican Republic as a 17 year-old.

After a year in the Mariners system, the Yankees then acquired the righty Then, along with another pitching prospect, lefty J.P. Sears (Not Ranked on MLB Pipeline), in a November 2017 deal for right-handed reliever, Nick Rumbelow. (Interestingly enough, just four days ago the Mariners DFA’ed Rumbelow.)

As a pitcher now, Then offers three pitches in his repertoire: a fastball graded to 55 (out of 80), a plus-changeup (55), and a solid curveball (50). His control ranks as a 50, yet his overall prospect value is listed as a 40, which may be due to his lack of build (155 pounds over a 6’1” frame). That should come better with time.

According to MLB Pipeline, Then has great control of all three of his pitches which is a high selling point for a teenager, and could potentially make it as a 4th or 5th man in a rotation with an ETA for the big leagues of 2022.

From the Pipeline:

“Then doesn’t miss a lot of bats with his 90-95 mph fastball because it’s fairly straight, though that allows him to command it better than most teenagers can. He also throws strikes with a changeup that’s advanced for his age. He has promising depth on his curveball, which ranks as his third-best pitch yet has solid potential.

Then isn’t very physical, but he could make it as a No. 4 or 5 starter because he keeps his pitch counts down and limits his mistakes. He has a high floor and given the Yankees’ success in increasing the velocity and spin rates of their pitchers, it’s possible that he could develop a plus pitch or two as he matures. He probably won’t make his full-season debut until 2020.”

Edwin Encarnación!

Edwin Encarnación will now have racked up playing for 5 major league clubs in his career, upon his debut in pinstripes (or the Yankees road grays if he plays tomorrow).

If you are a baseball fan, and especially as a Yankees fan, then you certainly know who EE is, as he spent 2009-2016 with the Toronto Blue Jays during the height of his career. A 3-Time All-Star, Encarnación has received MVP votes in 5 different years in his career, topping out at 11th in 2012.

However, even at 36 years-old, it seems as though he hasn’t truly lost a step yet, with 2019 being his best season since 2015, according to his OPS+ and wRC+ which is currently 140 and 139 respectively. (His 2015 OPS+ was 148, and his wRC+ was 150.)

Including this season, over his last three years (2016-2019), EE is still producing very well on the field with an average slash-line of .250/.358/.497 (.855 OPS and a 125 OPS+) with an expected 120 games per season, with rates stats at: 30 HR, 88 RBI’s, 69 BB’s, and 107 K’s. He has also averaged a WAR of 2.9 per 650 PA during that time.

A great offensive piece for an AL team who can place him a DH for the season, I’m a fan of the move on the surface so far. The corresponding moves will be interesting to see, however.


The Money:

Just because it seemed to also get a lot of confusion around Twitter, I also wanted to quickly address how the money situation is going to be handled.

This past offseason (2018-2019), the Cleveland Indians, as part of a three-team deal with the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners, sent EE to Seattle with Tampa Bay also contributing $5 Million towards his contract. Ken Rosenthal summarized it nicely after the trade, here:

Money exchanged in the three-team trade, per source: $5M from #Rays to #Mariners. $6M from #Mariners to #Indians. Encarnacion owed $25M for one year, including $5M buyout. Santana, headed to #Indians, owed $35M for two years, including $500K buyout. — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2018

With this trade, the Yankees and Mariners are reported to now be splitting the remaining portion of his contract (including the $5 Million team buy-out for 2020), which comes to be about $7.5 Million per team for the rest of this year the buy-out afterwards, if the Yankees decide to do so. (Otherwise, I believe the Yankees would be fronting his whole $20 Million for the 2020 season from this contract).

Encarnacion still owed more than $15M in salary and buyout. Source says #Yankees and #Mariners essentially splitting the money. SEA paid more to get better prospect – pitcher Juan Then, who should move into 15-20 range on SEA top prospects list. First with Then: @Joelsherman1. — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 16, 2019
#Rays still owe #Mariners $2.5M as part of last winter’s three-team Encarnacion trade (already paid $2.5M on May 1). So amount #Yankees and M’s split will be reduced by that amount. — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 16, 2019

My Reaction:

I feel good about this deal on the surface, as I mentioned earlier.

I feel very confident about EE’s ability to play. Bleacher Report just put out a great article from 3 days ago titled, “Edwin Encarnacion is MLB’s Most Underappreciated Power Hitter of a Generation”, I highly recommend the read. It’s making me confident in his game.

However, because the Yankees are now going to be going through a big roster crunch, EE is definitely going to be around for the long-haul, which means moves need to be made to get him on the 40-Man and the 25-Man rosters.

Speculations and everything are going to fly rampant over the next hours and days until moves are announced, but these seem to be the main talking points thus far:

Does this spell Clint Frazier’s last days as a Yankee or will they stash him in Triple-A for another season because Gardner and EE should be gone next year?

Clint Frazier and Thairo Estrada for a Starting Pitcher? Neither has a place on the team when Stanton and/or Judge come back.

What about Cameron Maybin? Is he okay with going back down to Triple-A for the long-term? The Yankees need to have some depth.

Hopefully this spells the end of the Kendrys Morales experiment?

In Cashman, I trust. But, how I feel about this trade is contingent on how those follow-up moves are handled.


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