The market for Edwin Encarnacion is heating up. According to a report, the Toronto Blue Jays want Encarnacion back, but are bidding with at least four other teams.
“Cleveland, Texas, Houston, Oakland and Toronto have all made offers to Edwin Encarnacion according to club sources of each of those teams,” ESPN’s Jim Bowden said. “Negotiations are continuing at a rapid pace for two of the teams as he is clearly recognized as an impact bat and a difference maker especially for pennant contenders. All offers have been multi-year offers and a few have included an opt out year after year one.”
The Oakland Athletics are certainly something of a surprise. It has been reported that the A’s are interested in Encarnacion, which you can read about here. Still, Encarnacion will likely command $20-plus million per year, and in a long-term deal, may cost north of $100 million. Oakland hasn’t been a big spending team since its glory days of the late 1980’s. Given how far out of contention the A’s have been over the last two years, committing that kind of money to Encarnacion would be out of character.
The other teams all make a great deal of sense. The Cleveland Indians are the defending American League champions. They need to either bring Mike Napoli back, or replace his bat in the lineup.
While the Houston Astros missed the playoffs in 2016, they are one of the American League’s most-talented teams. Houston made the playoffs in 2015, then overcame an abysmal start to 2016 to finish 84-78. The Astros first basemen also slugged at .381 in 2016, the second worst total in baseball. The team’s designated hitters, meanwhile, slugged at .378, the worst total in the American League.
Signing Encarnacion, along with newcomer Brian McCann, would allow Houston to have a lineup with either McCann or Evan Gattis catching, then the other one and Encarnacion occupying the first base and designated hitter positions. That would make an already strong lineup quite formidable.
The Texas Rangers have made the playoffs in each of the last two years. With Mitch Moreland going to the Boston Red Sox and Prince Fielder’s retirement, there is a void at both first base and DH in Texas.
Of course, the Blue Jays make complete sense on the field. With the Cincinnati Reds, Encarnacion was a talented, but inconsistent player. Shortly after getting traded to Toronto during the 2009 season, Encarnacion became a star.
In his seven full seasons with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion has averaged 33 home runs a year. Over the last five years, he has averaged 39 bombs. Naturally, Encarnacion has been a huge part of Toronto’s back-to-back ALCS runs in 2015 and 2016.
Based on these teams, one thing is abundantly clear. Encarnacion’s future is in the American League. He may be able to play a season or two at first base. But based on these offers, Encarnacion is going to be a full time DH soon. In 2016, he played 86 games at DH, and 75 at first base.