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Dipoto makes eighth trade of the season, inspires plethora of puns

Adiós to the Accidental Mariner.

About half an hour before gametime this evening, the Mariners announced they had traded first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnación to the New York Yankees. In return, the M's receive pitching prospect Juan Then, who has been playing in the Class-A Gulf Coast League.

The Mariners will also send approximately $8.4 million to the Yankees; Encarnación is still owed approximately $9.4 million of his $21.7 million salary this season and a $5 million buyout should the Yankees not exercise his $20M team option for 2020.

Though he is the current American League home run leader with 21, the modest return for Encarnación is about as much as anyone could reasonably expect given the situation. When Seattle General Manager Jerry Dipoto acquired Encarnación last December, it was with the full intention to immediately flip him elsewhere, but no team was interested. Dipoto had dealt just-acquired first baseman/DH Carlos Santana to Cleveland for Encarnación and a compensatory draft pick; it was a curious move that appeared designed to cut a year of obligation from the salary rolls (Santana was under contract through 2020 with an option for 2021, though for slightly less money), but Santana seemed like the better trade chip. Regardless, the M's ended up stuck with Encarnación to begin the season despite trying to move him since the second he arrived.

One might think there would be more of a market for the AL's leading homer hitter, but the reality is Edwin is a 36-year-old rental player with a huge contract and defensive limitations. Despite proving himself adequate as a first baseman with the Mariners, no teams were interested in handing him an everyday defensive role and AL teams in contention and with needs at DH were few.

Juan Then, a 19-year-old pitching prospect, returns to the Mariners in the deal. Then had been with the Seattle organization last season, but was traded to the Yankees along with fellow pitcher JP Sears for reliever Nick Rumbelow, whom the M's have already released. Then was fairly well respected in the Yankees' system and has some potential, but as with any Class-A prospect, one can't really predict success or failure.

29-year-old catcher/infielder Austin Nola is being promoted to take Encarnación's place on the Seattle roster. Nola has had good numbers in Triple-A this year and last (.327/.415/.520 in 2019, .279/.370/.376 in 2018), playing behind the plate, at first, and at third. He has also played second base and shortstop in his minor-league career.

Then's name and status as a two-time Dipoto trade member prompted a number of clever (and not-so-clever) tweets from sportswriters and fans alike, including these:

Encarnación's departure finalizes the sequence of moves begun last November to shed the team of the contracts (and attitudes?) of Robinson Canó and Jean Segura. To recap:

  1. Mariners trade Canó, Edwin Díaz, and $20 million to the Mets for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Justin Dunn, Gersón Bautista, and Jered Kelenic
  2. Mariners trade Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos to Philadelphia for Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford.
  3. Mariners trade Santana and a net $1 million to Cleveland for Edwin Encarnación and a compensatory draft pick (the Rays were involved peripherally, making a separate deal with Cleveland, and sent $5M to the M's while Seattle sent $6M to Cleveland). The draft pick resulted in pitcher Isaiah Campbell, selected earlier this month.
  4. Mariners trade Swarzak and $2 million to Atlanta for relief pitcher Jesse Biddle and injured pitcher Arodys Vizcaino.
  5. Mariners trade Bruce and $18 million to Philadelphia for infielder Jake Scheiner.
  6. Mariners trade Encarnación and $8.4 million to the Yankees for Juan Then.

The net result for Seattle is eight players to the farm (including Crawford and Bautista, now with the big-league club) and roughly $63 million in payroll savings through 2023. 

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