Edwin Encarnacion is Positioning Himself for a Big Payday

2016 was supposed to be Jose Bautista’s big payday. But after struggling through the first few months of the season and suffering from a few nagging injuries, Bautista may not get the desired dollar amount he wanted.

Jose Bautista’s value may be on the decline, which could make 2016 Edwin Encarnacion‘s big payday instead.

Encarnacion is positioning himself very well to be paid handsomely this offseason, whether it’s by the Toronto Blue Jays of one of Major League Baseball’s other 29 teams. He’s been one of baseball’s hottest hitters since early June and has been hitting at a torrid pace ever since.


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On June 10th, Edwin Encarnacion was hitting at his low-water mark on the season, slashing .233/.310/.450. But in the 9 games since, Encarnacion has collected 6 home runs, 14 RBI’s, all the while slashing .424/.558/1.061.

These numbers may not be sustainable for the rest of the month – let alone the rest of the season – but it’s merely a taste of the kind of tear Edwin Encarnacion goes on at least two or three times every season.

When he’s cold, he’s as cold as any free-swinging slugger … but when Edwin gets hot, he’s among the best hitters in all of baseball. And that kind of upside is very appealing to any number of suitors.

Encarnacion has carried the offensive load for the Blue Jays in the absence of Jose Bautista and through the struggles and injury to Troy Tulowitzki. With many of the Blue Jays’ stars on the sidelines, Edwin Encarnacion has filled the void … and then some.

Since 2011, Edwin Encarnacion has been baseball’s most prolific home run hitter (hitting 186 home runs, one more than Jose Bautista in the same span). Now, Edwin picked the perfect time to go on another tear and increase his asking price that much more as a free agent.

As he approaches free agency for the first time in his career, Edwin Encarnacion is in a very unique position because very few hitters like him have hit the open market with his level of pedigree, at his age, and at this juncture in his career where Edwin has been relegated to designated hitter duties.

David Oritz has been the American League’s preeminent DH, but he’s essentially gone year-to-year with the Red Sox the past several seasons. The only precedent for contracts given out to a pure DH was Victor Martinez’ 4-year/$68 million dollar deal signed back in the 2014 offseason.

Since then, the landscape has shifted even more, guaranteeing designated hitters less and less and far fewer years as a free agent. Quite often, players relegated to a DH-only role are often limited in their destinations and must fight to get a multi-year contract.

That likely won’t be case with Edwin Encarnacion, but a player that can only play on one side of the ball really has limited options. They can’t make the same contract demands of an everyday position player, but a hitter the calibre of Edwin Encarnacion will still command a hefty paycheque.


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Matt Stairs (a former teammate of Edwin Encarnacion) said something interesting during the Phillies’ TV broadcast last week, basically reiterating how much Edwin loves to hit, and how he doesn’t exactly adore playing first base.

I’m not sure between Adam Lind and Encarnacion who hated playing first base more. Gibby used to say that they’d come in and all of a sudden Adam Lind would say ‘Oh man, I’ve got a tight hammy. I can’t play first base today … I can DH, though.’

This is where the Blue Jays have a small bit of leverage in contract negotiations with Edwin Encarnacion. Not only do the Blue Jays offer him a little bit of familiarity, but the ability to hit in a DH capacity for the foreseeable future in a hitter-friendly ballpark.

Of course, we can’t talk about Edwin Encarnacion without bringing up his counterpart, Jose Bautista. If anything, this season has made it very apparent that he is 36 years old. Although he conditions himself incredibly well, he’s still two years older than Edwin Encarnacion. and Bautista has logged much more time in the field than Encarnacion.

It’s quite interesting how the tables have turned with these two; in Spring Training, after Jose Bautista laid down the gauntlet for his contract demands from the Blue Jays, it left many declaring “pay the man”.

But now that sentiment has shifted towards Edwin Encarnacion and has some questioning whether the Blue Jays’ money might be better spent on Encarnacion rather than Bautista.


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Image via Getty Images Sport/Tom Szczerbowski

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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