Moving as much of Edwin Encarnacion’s salary as possible was the Mariners’ prime incentive in finding a trade partner for the slugger, which is why the Yankees ultimately won the bidding. Other teams were also checking in with the M’s about Encarnacion, though ultimately weren’t as willing as New York was to cover as much salary, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets. We heard earlier today about the Rays’ interest, and Feinsand reports that the Astros “were also actively involved, with the Rockies in the mix to a lesser extent.”
Encarnacion would certainly have beefed up a first base/DH mix that has been Houston’s only real offensive weak spot this season, as both Yuli Gurriel and Tyler White have posted below-average numbers. Then again, young Yordan Alvarez’s hot start has created optimism that the Astros could address that DH need from within, and the Astros are seemingly more in need of pitching than they are of another big bat (then again, the same could’ve been said of the Yankees).
In terms of taking on salary, Jason Martinez of Roster Resource has the Astros projected for a luxury tax number of just under $189.5MM, well below the $206MM Competitive Balance Tax threshold. Since the Yankees ended up adding only $3.4MM in extra luxury tax funds in the Encarnacion trade, on paper it would seem like Houston would certainly have taken on a similar financial obligation and still had enough money left over to acquire pitching without crossing the CBT line. Of course, it’s possible other factors were part of any Houston/Seattle talks. Perhaps the Mariners wanted more to trade Encarnacion within the AL West; maybe the two sides just couldn’t agree on a suitable prospect to change hands in a deal.
Colorado would’ve been more of a curious fit for Encarnacion, which likely explains their “lesser” degree of interest. Without a DH spot on offer, the Rockies would have had to play Encarnacion at first base every day, which might have been a tough ask of a 36-year-old who has spent the bulk of his time as a designated hitter over the last nine seasons. (Encarnacion did start at first base 45 times for the Mariners this year, though still with 19 DH starts to keep him well-rested.)
Adding Encarnacion to first base would have also required a shift back to second base for Daniel Murphy, who has been a decidedly subpar defensive second baseman throughout his entire career. The Rockies might have been considering whether the fielding dropoff would have been worth the risk, since Murphy’s bat might have at least sparked some type of positive help from the second base spot. No team in baseball has gotten less production (-1.0 bWAR) than the Rockies out of their second basemen in 2019.
Then again, Murphy has yet to really catch fire at the plate himself, hitting only .278/.324/.463 with five homers over 176 PA, while missing four weeks with a fractured finger. As the Rockies look towards the trade deadline, the easier solution to their second base situation might be to simply acquire an actual second baseman as an upgrade over the Ryan McMahon/Brendan Rodgers/Garrett Hampson mix, rather than move Murphy over and obtaining a new first baseman.