Encarnacion Heads East
Even with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge on the injured list for an extended period of time, and a plethora of other injuries throughout their lineup, the Yankees have still flashed plenty of power this season.
In fact, their 110 home runs as a team rank eighth in all of baseball -- and fourth in the American League behind only the Twins, Mariners and Astros. Apparently Brian Cashman and company thought that there still wasn’t enough thump though, as they went out and made a major splash in the trade market on Saturday evening.
Jeff Passan of ESPN was the first to report that the Yankees had agreed to a deal with the Mariners to acquire Edwin Encarnacion -- the American League’s leading home run hitter -- in exchange for 19-year-old prospect right-hander Juan Then and cash considerations.
Encarnacion is no stranger to the American League East, having spent seven and a half seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays where he developed into one of the most feared sluggers in all of baseball.
The 36-year-old has missed the past three games due to a nagging back injury, but has been as solid as ever in the middle of the Mariners’ lineup this season where he has slashed .241/.356/.531 with 21 homers, 49 RBI and 48 runs scored.
He’ll likely split his time between first base and designated hitter with the Bombers, alternating with Luke Voit. That means that Giancarlo Stanton will spend most of his time in the outfield upon his return. Once the team is fully healthy, that means Stanton and Aaron Judge will flank Aaron Hicks in the outfield, leaving Brett Gardner as the odd-man out.
From a fantasy perspective, it’s a major boon to Encarnacion’s fantasy value. He gets a tremendous park shift moving out of Safeco Field in Seattle and into the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium. He also gets the major benefit of a much-improved supporting cast than what he was dealing with in Seattle.
The Yankees are expected to assume around half of the money remaining on his contract -- which is roughly $15 million between his salary and buyout. With the Mariners agreeing to pay half of that sum, they were able to acquire a decent pitching prospect in return. 19-year-old right-hander Juan Then has yet to pitch in 2019, but owns a 2.67 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 98/26 K/BB ratio over 111 1/3 innings in his minor league career.
He's still several years away from being big league ready, but has a projectable frame and massive upside with a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and a developing curveball. He was considered the 27th ranked prospect in the Yankees’ system according to MLB Pipeline.
The fire sale appears to be far from over in Seattle. Even after dealing Jay Bruce and Encarnacion, Jerry DiPoto still has plenty of large contracts that he would like to shed before the trade deadline. In fact, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Mariners are looking to trade anyone remaining on their roster that’s making money. That means that Dee Gordon and Mike Leake are likely the next two in line to be moved.
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Astros’ rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez has certainly made an impact during his first week at the big league level. The 21-year-old Cuban slugger entered play on Saturday having homered three times and driven in seven runs in his first four big league contests.
He added to both of those totals in Saturday’s contest against the Blue Jays.
Alvarez victimized Blue Jays’ left-hander Clayton Richard in this one, smashing a solo shot to right-center in the third inning as part of a three-hit afternoon. In doing so, Alvarez became just the fourth player since 1908 to hit at least four home runs in his first five big league games -- joining Trevor Story, Yasiel Puig and Mike Jacobs.
Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch has been extremely impressed -- if not awestruck -- by what he has seen from Alvarez in his first five games. He explained to reporters on Saturday, “I’m probably having about as hard a time describing him as you’re having writing about him… He’s having an enormous impact for us -- that goes without saying. It’s been very impressive to watch him methodically go about his business [like] a much more experienced player than he is. He’s soaking up all the information that we have, he’s leaning on teammates and he’s in the batter’s box and in complete control of the at-bat. His productivity has been sensational.”
Alvarez is now hitting a ridiculous .471/.609/1.176 with four homers and eight RBI. He’s going to be the top free agent addition in all available fantasy leagues on Sunday, and for very good reason. Whichever team has the most FAAB money left to spend should absolutely freeze out all other potential bidders to secure this impact power bat.
Allen Gets the Axe
The Angels thought they were making a big move to fortify their bullpen in the offseason when they signed former Indians’ closer Cody Allen to a one-year, $8.5 million contract.
They thought so much of the signing in fact that they surprisingly non-tendered their own closer, Blake Parker, who had closed out 14 games for the Angels in 2018 while posting a 3.26 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 70/19 K/BB ratio across 66 ⅓ innings.
Surely Allen would be a major upgrade on that though, right.
Wrong. Allen’s tumultuous tenure with the Angels came to an end on Saturday when the club officially designated him for assignment prior to Saturday’s game against the Rays. The 30-year-old right-hander was terrific through his first six outings on the season, converting each of his first four save chances and registering a 1.42 ERA across 6 ⅓ innings.
Since that day, he lost his closer’s role (despite having not actually blown a save), spent a few weeks on the injured list with a lumbar spine strain, and compiled a miserable 8.10 ERA and 2.46 WHIP over 16 ⅔ innings. Opponents slashed .311/.446/.770 against him during that stretch.
It would be easy to completely write Allen off at this stage, but it’s hard to believe that there aren’t some valuable innings remaining in his right arm. Perhaps the back strain has been a bigger issue than he has led on. Though that wouldn’t also explain his struggles throughout the 2018 season with the Indians.
Still, this is a guy who posted a 2.67 ERA and 11.7 K/9 over 373 ⅔ innings prior to 2018 and he owns 153 saves in his big league career. For the MLB minimum salary, I’d be shocked if there weren’t at least a few teams willing to give him another shot.
Specifically, there could be one team with major bullpen woes -- and that is likely to move their current closer at the trade deadline -- who should kick the tires on Allen to see if he can be salvaged. I’m talking to you Tigers.
American League Quick Hits: Hunter Dozier (chest) is progressing more quickly than anticipated and is likely to rejoin the Royals early next week. … The Orioles demoted the struggling David Hess to the bullpen. … Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (hand) sat out Saturday’s game against the Astros, but is expected to avoid the injured list. … Yoan Moncada missed another game Saturday with his back issue, but the White Sox remain hopeful that he’ll avoid the injured list. … Dee Gordon was held out of the Mariners’ lineup due to a sore wrist. … Nomar Mazara was lifted from Saturday’s game against the Reds due to a tight hamstring. … Tyler Glasnow (forearm) threw 10-12 pitches (only fastballs) off of a mound on Saturday and is expected to throw a full bullpen session on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Framber Valdez struck out eight over six innings of two-run baseball in a victory over the Blue Jays. … J.D. Martinez homered for the third consecutive game as the Red Sox topped the Orioles. … Chris Sale punched out 10 over six innings of two-run baseball to earn the victory. … Shane Bieber racked up 12 strikeouts over 7 ⅔ innings in a victory over the Tigers. … Gleyber Torres homered and drove in three as the Yankees topped the White Sox. … Jake Odorizzi defeated the Royals to earn his 10th victory of the season. … Jorge Soler crushed his 18th home run of the season in that loss…Jurickson Profar went 3-for-4 with four RBI and a stolen base, leading the Athletics past the Mariners.
National League Quick Hits: Cubs’ right-hander Kyle Hendricks unexpectedly landed on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. … Noah Syndergaard was removed from Saturday’s start against the Cardinals in the seventh inning due to a right hamstring strain. It’s unclear at the moment just how much time he may miss, but a trip to the injured list seems likely. … Robinson Cano (quad) is expected to be activated from the injured when he’s first eligible on Sunday. … The Mets acquired right-hander Brooks Pounders from the Indians for cash considerations. … Daniel Murphy was a late scratch from the Rockies’ starting lineup on Saturday for undisclosed reasons. … Sean Newcomb was removed from Saturday’s start against the Phillies after taking a line drive from J.T. Realmuto off of his head. ... Jay Bruce was pulled from Saturday’s game against the Braves with left hamstring tightness. … Christian Yelich slugged his league-leading 26th home run in a losing effort against the Giants. … Stephen Vogt went 3-for-4 with two triples in that victory for the Giants. … Ketel Marte blasted a pair of home runs off of Stephen Strasburg as the Diamondbacks walloped the Nationals. Marte now has 19 home runs on the season. … Scott Kingery remained red-hot, going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI as the Phillies triumphed over the Braves. … Anthony Rizzo clubbed a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth to lead the Cubs past the Dodgers. … Walker Buehler fired seven scoreless innings in a no-decision there. … Yu Darvish struck out 10 over seven innings of one-run ball in a no-decision on the other side. … Ian Desmond blasted a grand slam and plated five runs as the Rockies crushed the Padres. … Charlie Blackmon tallied four hits, two RBI and three runs scored in that victory. … Pete Alonso clubbed his 23rd home run of the season in a victory over the Cardinals.