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Examining the Haul in the Jay Bruce Trade

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Mariners add an interesting piece to the farm system at a position of need

Ken Inness/MiLB.com

Today is a day that will go down in dad-infamy. Who wore it better? Seth Smith or Jay Bruce? Time to go find a new team dad.

There are several layers in trading a player from one organization to another, especially during a rebuild. Seattle successfully moved Jay Bruce to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. Let’s start with the immediate return:

The Trade in a Vaccum

In exchange for Bruce, Seattle will receive 23-year-old third baseman Jake Scheiner. The University of Houston product will report to High-A Modesto and play alongside fellow 3B prospect Joe Rizzo.

Scheiner spent 2018 at A-ball Lakewood where he slashed .296/.372/.470. He slugged 13 home runs. An impressive 15.7 K% and 9.5 BB% suggests a player with strong plate vision and discipline. His 140 wRC+ ranked among the Top 12 in all of Class-A ball.

The biggest knock on Scheiner will certainly be his age, as he’ll turn 24 in August. You’d like to see Scheiner take another step forward this season, and accelerate his promotion schedule as he reaches the proverbial end of his “prospect” status. He’s struggled early on in 2019, slashing .256/.326/.353 in 44 games at High-A Clearwater.

Scheiner’s bat will ultimately dictate his ceiling. His range at the hot corner can be suspect at times. In fact, only 50 percent of Scheiner’s playing time this year has been at third, the rest being played in the outfield and at first base. With Rizzo reasonably entrenched at third base in Modesto, you can expect that to continue in the Seattle organization.

In speaking with one NL scouting coordinator, it would appear Scheiner is probably more than some lottery ticket pick-up.

“Ok, there’s a hint of a Kyle Seager type trajectory in there,” he said. “That may be wishful thinking, but there’s a line you can follow.”

Scheiner projects as a high-OBP utility man with moderate power.

While neither Baseball America or MLBPipeline ranked the infielder in the Phillies Top 30 Prospects entering the season, he will likely slot into the very back of Seattle’s Top 30 list.

The Mariners will also send roughly $18 million to the Phillies. Bruce had about $21 million remaining on his deal.

Underlying Message

With Seattle sending $18 million to the Phillies in the deal, it shows the team is willing to spend money to get better. Had they allowed Philadelphia to pay the majority of Bruce’s remaining contract, it would have likely meant little or no prospect return at all. The Mariners effectively paid for the right to Scheiner in this deal, and philosophically, that is a promising sign for Mariners fans.

Now, whether or not Scheiner himself is worth the $18 million price tag is a whole different conversation, but the thought process by the front office is appealing.

Closing the Book on the Cano/Diaz Deal

Flipping Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz may just go down as one of Jerry Dipoto’s crowning achievements. Jay Bruce and his 2-year, $26 million contract was part of that return, but flipping him to the Phillies makes add some finality to the entire deal. In exchange for Diaz and Cano, Seattle effectively received: Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista, Jesse Biddle and Jake Scheiner. They also saved themselves roughly $84.5 million when you balance the contracts of Cano, Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Biddle, and Arodys Vizcaino.

Re-investing that money in the future, specifically a 2021 playoff run, should be the appropriate beneficial next step.

That’s a net-win.

Final Thoughts

From this chair, beings Seattle is eating $18 million of Bruce’s deal, I expected the prospect return to be a little heavier, but that’s not to say this isn’t a win.

The fact of the matter is, Seattle had little leverage in this scenario. Bruce wasn’t hitting his weight, although all those taters sure were majestic. With Ryon Healy on the verge of returning, Jerry Dipoto faced an enormous logjam of “bats”. The team simply didn’t have a way to get Bruce, Healy, Daniel Vogelbach and Edwin Encarnacion consistent at-bats whilst keeping their trade value. It also allows the organization to get a better look at OF Braden Bishop who was recalled to take Bruce’s roster spot.

Today was the first move of what can be presumed as many to come. But this is how a rebuild works. You rent players and hope to move them for prospect value. Jay Bruce was an excellent clubhouse mentor and his 300th home run can never be taken away from this fanbase.

So long, Papa Jay. It was a fantastic five months.