That Mariners step back just took another receding stride.
Seattle traded Jay Bruce, one of its leading home-run hitters and its most vocal veteran clubhouse leader, to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. The return: Class-A outfielder Jake Scheiner and what the Mariners announced as “cash considerations.”
Those considerations, plus a roster logjam at Bruce’s positions, are why Seattle traded Bruce.
Time, many years, will show how good a player the 23-year-old Scheiner may become. But this trade as we currently know it isn’t exactly even.
The Associated Press reported the deal will cost the Phillies just $2.75 million over the next 1 1/2 seasons. The Mariners will pay Philadelphia $18,567,204 on Jan. 15, the AP reported. That will cover most of the $21.3 million remaining on Bruce’s $39 million, three-year contract.
Bruce has $8.3 million remaining in salary for this season, and has another $13 million in salary for 2020.
The Phillies would normally take on all of that in trading for him, but the Mariners are paying most of Bruce’s money to free up roster space and stay on their fast track to youth and rebuild. Bruce’s contract also calls for a $1.5 million signing bonus in 2020, which his former New York Mets are paying.
Bruce confirmed Sunday morning he’d been traded, and that he would join the Phillies in San Diego Monday during their West Coast road trip. Mariners attendants had already cleared out his locker in the clubhouse 2 1/2 hours before Sunday’s game. Someone included the appropriate touch of Phillies-red cleats atop one of his equipment bags.
The trade became official during the Angels’ 7-run top of the second inning of Seattle’s particularly dismal, 13-3 defeat.
A bummer day and vibe all around the Mariners clubhouse.
“Getting beat pretty good doesn’t feel real good. Right now, doesn’t feel great, you know?” third baseman Kyle Seager said after his first home run of the season wasn’t nearly enough to make Seattle’s Sunday better.
“The Jay Bruce trade, that definitely hurts. Jay’s awesome. Everybody loved him. I think everybody wishes him nothing but the best. He is a real pro. He was a pleasure to be around.”
To fill Bruce’s spot on the active roster the Mariners recalled outfielder Braden Bishop from the Triple-A Rainiers in time for him to be to play in Sunday’s series finale against the Los Angeles Angles at T-Mobile Park. The former Washington Huskies outfielder replaced Mitch Haniger in right field for the top of the eighth inning of Seattle’s loss to the Angels. Bishop fouled out to the catch on the first pitch in his only at bat Sunday.
Scheiner will report to the Mariners’ affiliate at high Class-A Modesto. He was Philadelphia’s fourth-round choice in the 2017 draft, out of the University of Houston.
The Mariners waited well into into Sunday afternoon before making the trade official because they were waiting on Major League Baseball to approve it. The league office specifically must approve trades in which a trading team is taking on the heft of an involved player’s contract money.
The Phillies sought Bruce after Philadelphia outfielder Odubel Herrera was arrested in New Jersey last week for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.
Bruce is all cool with his short Seattle stay ending with imminent trade to Phillies. He said he realizes the Mariners “are in a little bit different place” right now.
That place is a massive rebuild.
Now he gets to go from a last-place team that has lost 35 of its last 47 games to the first-place team atop the National League East.
At age 32, in his 12th major league season, that’s a win for him.
“I’m excited,” Bruce said. “It will be a chance to win. And that’s what I want.”
Fittingly for the way this season has U-turned for Seattle, the Mariners announced the trade during the second inning of Sunday’s game — just as the Angles were scoring seven runs against them.
Bruce is batting .212 with a .283 on-base percentage and .533 slugging percentage. He has 14 homers, 11 doubles, 38 RBIs, 16 walks and 53 strikeouts in 47 games. His characteristic power has been there. But he’s been inconsistent at the plate, though he’s hit safely in six of his past seven games. That includes Friday night, when he hit his 300th career home run in his final game for the Mariners.
Bruce joined Seattle Dec. 3 in the trade that got the New York Mets slugger Robinson Cano, All-Star closer Edwin Diaz and cash and netted the Mariners Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak, pitcher Gerson Bautista and minor-league prospects Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic.
Mariners manager Scott Servais appreciated Bruce taking his much of his 3 1/2 months with the team, from spring training through this weekend, teaching Seattle’s many younger players. Bruce, a talkative guy by nature, spent many hours each week he was in the Mariners’ clubhouse sharing his knowledge of 8 1/2 seasons playing for Cincinnati, two stints with the Mets, and a half, playoff season with Cleveland. He’s played in 15 postseason games in his career.
“Jay’s been a really good influence in our clubhouse, with our younger players, with the players kind of in the middle of where they are at in their careers,” Servais said Sunday morning. “I really appreciate that he’s taken the time to do that. I think it’s very important for veteran players to give back and help, try to help, the younger guys along a little bit, because every one of those veteran players had somebody help them along the way.
“That’s how the game should work, in my opinion.”
In Bruce’s opinion, too.
“I’d like to think that I leave (Seattle’s clubhouse) better than I found it,” he said on his way out of it Sunday. “In my career, I’ve tried to lead by example and share my experiences.”
Who takes Bruce’s place as the Mariners’ new, veteran clubhouse leader to teach all the kids?
“I think all the experiences that Jay has had, different places he’s played, the different kinds of ball clubs he’s been on, I don’t know if we have that guy, per se. Just because Jay is open. Jay likes to talk,” Servais said.
“Some guys are just not as open...I don’t know if we have that guy.”
But, Servais said, “oh, we’ll survive.”
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.
One of those other seven such players is Mariner Edwin Encarnacion. He’s another high-priced veteran slugger Seattle could be trading this summer as part of its rebuild.
The trade of Bruce helps thin the herd of Mariners at first base that’s been an issue for the team since spring training. The Mariners have had four candidates for the position between Bruce, who also plays the outfield, plus Edwin Encarnacion, Ryon Healy and Daniel Vogelbach. It was assumed in the spring that Healy, the only player in that group still with minor-league options, would likely be sent to Triple-A Tacoma.
But then Seager injured his hand days before the Mariners’ season opener in Japan. Seager’s 53 games missed while on the injured list provided a temporary solution. Healy, Seattle’s regular first baseman last season, moved over to third base for most of the first two months to replace Seager. Bruce, Encarnacion and Vogelbach split time at first. Encarnacion and Vogelbach have also regularly appeared at DH.
Seager was reactivated May 25. Sunday’s start was his ninth game since his return to his regular role at third base. He hit his first home run of the season.
Healy has been on the 10-day IL since May 21 with lower back inflammation.
When he returns, the Mariners will be down to three first baseman, with Bruce now a Phillie.