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Are there roles for Bruce, Santana in Seattle?

Recently acquired veterans are uncertain fits for Mariners' roster
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- In the process of adding young prospects and payroll flexibility for the future, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto also acquired a pair of veteran position players -- Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana -- in his blockbuster moves Monday with the Mets and Phillies.

Which leads to the obvious question: Should the two bother shopping for places to live in Seattle, or are they destined to be quickly added to the list of veterans being traded away in Dipoto's quest to reposition his roster for a better run in 2020 and beyond?

SEATTLE -- In the process of adding young prospects and payroll flexibility for the future, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto also acquired a pair of veteran position players -- Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana -- in his blockbuster moves Monday with the Mets and Phillies.

Which leads to the obvious question: Should the two bother shopping for places to live in Seattle, or are they destined to be quickly added to the list of veterans being traded away in Dipoto's quest to reposition his roster for a better run in 2020 and beyond?

Both players have had significant value in the past, which is why they carry significant contracts that were included in Monday's deals to help offset some of the long-term salary owed to Robinson Cano and Jean Segura.

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Bruce, a three-time National League All-Star, has two years and $28 million remaining on the three-year deal he signed with the Mets. At the time, he was coming off a season when he'd posted a .254/.324/.508 line with 36 home runs and 101 RBIs in 146 games for the Mets and Indians.

A hip issue hindered the 31-year-old for much of 2018, as he struggled through a .223/.310/.370 season with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 94 games, but would seem a strong bounceback candidate if healthy again.

Video: Jay Bruce talks about joining the Mariners

Dipoto may well hang on to Bruce, let him play left field as well as some designated hitter, and see if he can hit well enough to resurrect his trade value by midseason. Bruce has been around long enough to understand the business of baseball, but is operating under the assumption he'll be in Seattle to start the year.

"I know things change and it's not a certainty until I get there," he said. "But what I've been told is that I'll be a Mariner this year. We'll see. But my plan now is looking for houses in Seattle and Arizona as we speak. I look forward to it and I'm operating under the notion that I will be a Seattle Mariner."

If healthy, Bruce certainly is capable of helping the Mariners or another team. Over the previous seven seasons with the Reds and Mets, he averaged 30 homers and 94 RBIs a year, won a pair of Silver Slugger awards and twice was in the top 10 of NL MVP voting.

"I'm fully healthy now," Bruce said. "Last year was something of an outlier for me. Pretty much my whole career I've been healthy outside of meniscus surgery in 2014. It was very disappointing. My motto my whole career has been, 'You've got to play. You've got to play.'

"But it got to the point last year where I was doing myself and my team no favors. I took time off and missed 60 games. But when I came back, the silver lining was I was myself again. I look forward to being healthy and giving a full season of my normal self."

Santana's availability from the Phillies figured a little differently. The 32-year-old got off to a rough start last year and his batting average of .229 was a dip from his career norm of .247. But the durable Dominican Republic native produced his typical solid numbers over the final five months, finishing with a .352 on-base percentage, 24 homers and 86 RBIs in 161 games.

Santana was moved by the Phillies not because he had a bad season, but because his acquisition last year led to Rhys Hoskins getting shifted to left field in an experiment that didn't pan out. The 25-year-old Hoskins now inherits first-base duties in Philly, while Santana awaits word of his future in Seattle or elsewhere.

Santana has current value on the trade market, though the Mariners likely would need to eat some of the $40 million of his remaining two-year contract. The nine-year veteran has averaged 25 homers and 84 RBIs over the past five seasons, carries a career .363 on-base percentage and was the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at first base in 2017.

Video: Phillies send Santana to the Mariners in trade

If the Mariners hang on to the switch-hitting Santana, he certainly could help solidify their lineup by providing a proven bat at first base or designated hitter. But Dipoto's agenda has been dealing short-term assets for longer-term prospects, so it's likely Santana gets flipped again if the right opportunity arises.

The Rockies, Rays, Twins and Astros are among the possible Santana suitors, though the AL clubs on that list might wait to see where Nelson Cruz signs first, since he'll likely require less than the $40 million on Santana's contract.

Dipoto feels Santana and Bruce are assets whether they get traded or not, even in the current rebuilding phase, due to their strong reputations as clubhouse leaders.

"They can really make the process of something like this so much easier, just because they give to the team around them," he said. "I could say the same about Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager and guys we already have in-house. There's something to showing the young players how to manage themselves at this level and I think we have great examples. And Carlos and Jay are certainly two of those guys."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Jay Bruce, Carlos Santana