Veterans know they might not stay long with Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion are still productive major leaguers with the potential for big seasons.

Encarnacion had 32 home runs and 107 RBIs a season ago with Cleveland. Bruce hit 29 homers two seasons ago with the New York Mets. So they could play an important role in any success the Seattle Mariners have in 2019.

They just don’t fit perfectly into the Mariners’ long-term plans to build for the future.

It leaves them in the odd circumstance of knowing they are trying to help Seattle be successful and mentoring the next wave of young prospects, while at the same time essentially auditioning for teams that could be looking to add some offensive punch by the time midseason rolls around.

“I don’t worry about any of that stuff. I don’t trade myself. I create trade interest in myself by playing well. I help the team by playing well,” Bruce said. “I set an example for the young players based on my actions. I try not to be real preachy about the way I go about my business. If you have a question for me or you want to talk, I’m an open book. I’m here to set an example, but it’s more a byproduct of how I just go about my business. I didn’t come here to particularly set an example of how you go about your business. I came here to play well, play a lot and be myself.”

Bruce and Encarnacion are the two oldest players on what is expected to be Seattle’s starting lineup when the season begins March 20 in Tokyo. Bruce will turn 32 in early April. Encarnacion is 36. Kyle Seager (31) and Dee Gordon (30) are the only other starters in their 30s.

All could end up being trade options come midseason if the right offer lands on the desk of general manager Jerry Dipoto.

“Any player wants honesty, and just be very clear with what you’re doing, and explain to them how they fit into the present day,” Dipoto said.

Seager and Gordon were around last year for Seattle’s 89-win season that made it clear that the club, which was getting older and was still carrying heavy salaries, wasn’t any closer to catching the top teams in the American League. There appear to be roles for both beyond the 2019 season in trying to create a contender.

Bruce and Encarnacion were the veteran additions this offseason and they serve as a safety net so Seattle won’t have to rely on too many young players who might not be ready for the majors. There was a thought that Encarnacion may not even play a game in Seattle if Dipoto could have moved him before the start of spring training.

“The players are very smart. They’re intuitive. They’ve been around for a long time, and they’ve seen how it works,” Dipoto said. “They know we’re going through transition, and particularly with a guy like Ed. Edwin knew from the day he got here that it was a short-term fit.”

Encarnacion said he heard all the chatter about his stay in Seattle being short after being acquired in December.

“I didn’t know at the beginning. There was a lot of speculation about trading me again and blah, blah, blah. Lot of things going on,” Encarnacion said. “Yeah, I was thinking but now I’m here and focused on this.”

Bruce was part of Seattle’s biggest deal of the offseason, the one that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets in exchange for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, along with Bruce and pitchers Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista. Bruce played in a career-low 94 games last year due to a hip injury. He feels healthy and believes his play will help answer the question about how long he’ll be in Seattle.

“These are guys who have played for multiple organizations and they understand how the game works,” Dipoto said. “They know when we line up for Game 1 in Tokyo, we want to win that game, and we want to win the second one, and we want to win the third, and that’s what they’re here for. They’re not going to get too concerned with what comes too far down the road.”