CHICAGO — Yes, but can he pitch?
The pitching-needy Yankees added a bat to their lineup — a big one that leads the American League in homers — Saturday night, trading for the Mariners’ Edwin Encarnacion.
The Yankees sent prospect Juan Then, 19, who pitched in the Gulf Coast League for them last season, to the Mariners along with cash considerations. The trade, which was first reported by ESPN, became official just after midnight ET.
A smiling Aaron Boone was circumspect after the Yankees’ 8-4 victory over the White Sox on Saturday night as he addressed how the righthanded-hitting Encarnacion, 36, who has 21 home runs and 49 RBIs in 65 games, will fit in.
“There’s always room for good players,” Boone said before Encarnacion passed his physical and the trade was finalized. “Obviously, I understand there’s been all kinds of dialogue, but I’m not going to really comment until everything’s official.”
One of the slugger's former teammates from their time in Toronto was more than pleased to talk about him. What kind of hitter is he?
“One of the best, in my opinion,” J.A. Happ said. “He’s a pro and he’s going to fit in great here and I know he’s going to be excited to come here. Doesn’t say a lot, but he works hard and is prepared, and those are some of the reasons I think he’s going to really enjoy it here…He’s going to fit right into our lineup. I think taking a little pressure off other guys is a good thing, and I think he can do that a little bit.”
Encarnacion, who can play first base, will fit in as the likely designated hitter, a move that does not bode well for the righthanded-hitting Clint Frazier, who has shown the potential of being a big-league hitter but whose issues in the outfield haven’t gone away and have the Yankees hesitant to play him there consistently.
Frazier, 24, could be sent down to make room for Encarnacion and remains a prime candidate to be included in any deal the Yankees make before the trade deadline to bolster their starting rotation, something that very much remains the priority.
Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are due back within the next two weeks — Stanton as soon as Tuesday — and the already powerful Yankees lineup is shaping up to be even more so. Those two, along with Aaron Hicks, eventually should comprise the everyday outfield, with Brett Gardner heading to the bench.
Encarnacion has long enjoyed hitting against the Yankees, hitting 26 of his career 401 homers and owning a career .833 OPS against them. He has hit 18 homers in 69 career games at Yankee Stadium. He has a .241/.356/.531 slash line this season and is tied for fourth in the majors in home runs. On June 9, he became the 56th player in MLB history to reach the 400-homer plateau.
Since 2012, he leads the majors in home runs (284) and RBIs (813). He is the only major-leaguer in that span to record seven seasons with at least 30 homers, followed by Nelson Cruz (five) and Mike Trout (five). His six seasons with at least 100 RBIs since 2012 also are the most in the majors (six players are tied at four seasons).
Then has a 2-5 record with a 2.67 ERA in 24 starts over two minor-league seasons. He was acquired by the Yankees along with lefthander JP Sears from the Mariners on Nov. 18, 2017, in exchange for righthander Nick Rumbelow.
To make room for Encarnación on the 40-man roster, the Yankees transferred righthander Jake Barrett to the 60-day injured list.