The New York Yankees entered Saturday a half game back in the American League East. Rather than waiting for reinforcements to arrive, general manager Brian Cashman has opted instead to strike a deal for one of the best bats expected to be available all summer, as the Yankees have reportedly agreed to a trade to acquire slugger Edwin Encarnacion from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitching prospect Juan Then, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Encarnacion, 36, has hit .241/.356/.531 (140 OPS+) with a league-leading 21 home runs this season. Recently, he hit his 400th career home run. While Encarnacion is best known for his days with the Toronto Blue Jays, he’s remained a middle-of-the-order threat since departing. Dating back to the start of the 2017 season, he’s posted a 125 OPS+.
Encarnacion will provide the Yankees with yet another offensive boost in the coming days. Already New York had designs on getting back Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Now, manager Aaron Boone can slot Encarnacion into the lineup as the most-days first baseman or designated hitter, depending on whether the Yankees prefer Luke Voit’s glove. Additionally, Encarnacion gives the Yankees the flexibility to phase out Brett Gardner or to trade Clint Frazier for a pitcher, if the club so desires.
As for the finances, the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that Yankees and Mariners are “essentially splitting the money” left due to Encarnacion. He was due to make $20 million on the season, with a $5 million buyout on his club option next season. The Mariners had acquired Encarnacion over the offseason as part of a three-team deal that sent Carlos Santana to Cleveland and also involved the Tampa Bay Rays. As part of that trade, the Rays agreed to pay $5 million of Encarnacion’s salary. The Yankees, then, are likely on the hook for somewhere around $7 to $8 million. It’s worth noting the Yankees had around $20 million in luxury tax breathing room.
Between the recent Jay Bruce trade and now the Encarnacion move, it’s clear that Jerry Dipoto intends to remake his team once again over the next six-plus weeks until the July 31 trade deadline. Then, 19, ranked 27th on MLB.com’s top-30 Yankees list. He has a chance to be a back-end starter, per their report, due to the possibility that he develops three average or better offerings.