Edwin Encarnacion
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Report: Mariners still intend to trade Edwin Encarnación

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The Mariners acquired DH Edwin Encarnación as part of a three-team trade that involved the Indians and Rays back in December. The Indians received Jake Bauers and Carlos Santana, the Rays got Yandy Diaz and minor leaguer Cole Sulser, and the Mariners got Encarnación, cash, and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

After winning 89 games last season, the Mariners held a fire sale, trading James Paxton to the Yankees; Alex Colomé to the White Sox; Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz to the Mets; and Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos to the Phillies. According to Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times, Encarnación could be next. The club informed him of its intention to move him after bringing him to Seattle and it seems that is still the case.

Encarnación, 36, has one year remaining on his contract at $20 million along with a 2020 club option worth $20 million with a $5 million buyout. Last season with the Indians, he hit .246/.336/.474 with 32 home runs and 107 RBI in 579 plate appearances. The Mariners could pounce on an opportunity if a 1B/DH type on another team suffers an injury during spring training.

Until the Mariners do move Encarnación, he will be the main DH and occasional first baseman with Jay Bruce, Ryon Healy, Domingo Santana, and Dan Vogelbach backing up at those positions. GM Jerry DiPoto said, “Edwin Encarnación is proven productivity. He’s gonna play on a regular basis and hopefully be a staple in that lineup that we can grow around.”

DiPoto added, “And with Vogey and Ryon Healy, both of them are still young players with a chance to grow and move forward. It will be a challenge to see how we can balance the at-bats. But there will be a rotation that we use. As we get into the season, we’ll figure out what that is.

One thing that I’ve learned over three decades in baseball is that while you think you may have depth in a certain area, it often doesn’t work out that way. We’ll let spring training — and as we move toward the regular season — tell us a story about the best way to use our player.”

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.