Seattle Mariners

Mariners reportedly on verge of trading Jay Bruce to Phillies

The Seattle Mariners are reportedly nearing a deal to trade veteran Jay Bruce to the Philadelphia Phillies. The possible deal, which could be finalized quickly, was first reported Saturday morning by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Bruce was still in Seattle’s clubhouse Saturday afternoon, but did not have additional information.

“It’s part of the business,” Bruce said. “It’s what you sign up for. So, I’ll just wait and see. I have no news, honestly. I have nothing to speak on other than what’s put out on the Internet. Everyone probably knows that I’m available via trade.”

Bruce was not placed in the starting lineup for the Mariners’ game against the Angels. A left-handed hitter, it’s likely Bruce would have been left out of the batting order anyway, lefty Andrew Heany starting for Los Angeles, but the reports offer an additional reason why he was been omitted.

Mariners manager Scott Servais declined to comment on the trade rumors, but said Bruce has been an important clubhouse presence since joining the Mariners during the offseason.

“He’s got a lot of experience,” Servais said. “He’s certainly helped a lot of our players, our younger guys especially, just on how to deal with the ups and downs of a season. ... You need those guys. I think it’s really important for veteran players to give back, because somewhere along the line somebody helped them, and that’s how the game should work.”

The trade rumors likely stem from the situation involving Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera, who was arrested in New Jersey last week for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.

Bruce has been an outfielder for most of his 12-year career, and could act as a replacement for Philadelphia, though he’s played a significant amount of first base for the Mariners this season.

Bruce has been rumored as one of Seattle’s players who have trade potential since spring training, as part of the group of four players involved in a logjam at first base.

“We’ll see if something does happen,” Bruce said. “I’ll be happy to answer questions and talk about it.”

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Matt Gelb later tweeted that Bruce would waive a no-trade clause to join the Phillies, and Philadelphia would likely take on most of the $14 million Bruce is owed in 2020. If the Phillies do pick up most of his contract, the Mariners probably wouldn’t receive much in return in the deal, perhaps a low-level minor-leaguer.

Bruce is slashing at .212/.283/.533 this season with 14 homers, 11 doubles, 38 RBIs, 16 walks and 53 strikeouts this season, and while the power has been there, he’s struggled with consistency until recently. He’s hit safely in six of his past seven appearances.

“I think Jay’s swung the bat much better recently,” Servsais said. “He’s done a good job at first base. That’s kind of what we excepted when we acquired him, that he would be a good influence in the clubhouse and the power was going to be there. At the end of the year, you’ll look up and Jay Bruce will be doing what he typically does — hitting .255 and he’ll have his homers and RBIs. That’s who he is.”

Bruce hit his 300th career home run in a win over the Angels on Friday night, and became the eighth active player to record at least 300 doubles and 300 home runs.

If Bruce is traded to Philadelphia, it would help clear up the crowd at first base that was an imminent issue during spring training. The Mariners had four candidates for the position between Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, Ryon Healy and Daniel Vogelbach. It was assumed in the spring that Healy, the only player in that group with options, would likely be sent to Triple-A Tacoma.

But, veteran third baseman Kyle Seager injured his hand days before the Mariners opened their season in Japan, and spent a 60-day stint on the injured list, which provided a temporary solution. Healy, Seattle’s regular first baseman last season, moved over to third for most of the first two months to replace Seager, while Bruce, Encarnacion and Vogelbach split time at first. Encarnacion and Vogelbach have also regularly appeared at DH.

But, Seager was reactivated on May 25, and has resumed his regular role at third. Healy has been on the 10-day IL since May 21 with lower back inflammation, but when he returns, so would the four-player gridlock at first base. Dealing Bruce to the Phillies would provide a quick solution.

MARINERS WILL SKIP KIKUCHI

Servais confirmed Saturday that the Mariners will skip rookie left-hander Yusei Kikuchi’s next start, which was scheduled for Tuesday night against Houston.

“We’re going to give him a little breather,” Servais said. “Instead of the one-inning outing, we’re going to let him catch his breath a little bit.”

Kikuchi was nearing one of the one-inning short starts the Mariners have planned for him this season to help preserve his arm, but Servais said a skip altogether will allow Kikuchi to recharge.

“He’ll take a couple days, maybe not be as aggressive with his throwing,” Servais said. “He likes to throw a lot. So, just sitting down with Yusei, we knew this was going to be a part of the plan. Give him a break, give him a blow. One-inning start or skip a start, this was going to happen throughout the season, so we’ll stay with the plan.”

The Mariners have not yet reached a decision on who will fill in for Kikuchi against the Astros, and they may place slot him in a different place in the rotation instead of giving him a full nine days off.

“We’ll see,” Servais said. “We could slide him in (somewhere else). We might break up. We’ve got a lot of lefties. We’ll put him somewhere in the mix. We haven’t made that determination yet.”

After posting four consecutive quality starts, Kikuchi has struggled in his past two against the A’s and Angels, allowing a combined 10 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. He didn’t pitch past the fourth inning in either start.

“The goal when he came over and we signed him was to get through the whole season, and keep him strong throughout the season,” Servais said. “He got hit a little bit. Oakland was on him pretty good, (Los Angeles) got on him pretty good the other day.

“But, when his stuff is right, and he’s locating the ball, he’s really good. We’ve seen a lot more good than bad, he’s just had a couple rough outings and we’ll give him a little break, and he’ll be back in there.”

INJURY UPDATES

Mariners closer Hunter Strickland (lat strain) is still on track to throw a bullpen session Sunday, while starter Felix Hernandez (lat strain) is projected to throw one early in the week.

Second baseman Dee Gordon (wrist) was in the batting cage during Friday night’s game, and Servais expects his activity level to pick up in the coming days.

Infielder Ryon Healy (back) is still working through stiffness in his lower back, and has resumed some limited baseball activity.

Reliever Sam Tuivailala (Achilles), who struggled to get his throwing arm back in form during his rehab assignment with Tacoma, is seeing improvement with his range of motion after working with Seattle’s physical therapist the past few days.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.
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