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Edwin Encarnacion Returns to the Jays

There were many who believed that this would be the case from the time that the 2010 season ended, but it is now official: Edwin Encarnacion has signed a 1-year $2.5 million deal  with the Toronto Blue Jays. The deal also includes a club option for$3.5 million for 2012.

First and foremost, let me say this: at this point in his career, as he continues within the prime hitting years of most hitters (aside from Barry Bonds I guess), Edwin has more power potential in his bat than Manny Ramirez or Magglio Ordonezhave – or any other FA player I could find for that matter. Is he a better hitter? No way. But, Edwin didn’t get 2 guaranteed years and is costing the Jays about 1/3 the salary that Manny or Magglio would have gotten simply due to their reputations and past career achievements. The Jays also know that he gets along with the guys in the clubhouse and he is going to provide them with an alternative to Adam Lind at 1B should he struggle there defensively. Therefore, I would say adding Edwin makes a whole lot of sense when we look at what the alternatives on the FA market were.

Having said that, I entirely sympathize with the nay sayers, as acquiring Edwin does show a weakness in that the Jays did not get one of the premium DH bats in the league. However, I would point out to them that the Yankees are going to use Jorge Posadaat DH, a player who will be 39 and had 18 HRs and a .248/.357/.454 line in 2010 – lower than his career stats in all areas. Edwin’s stats in 2010? He had 21 HRs and a .244/.305/.482 line in 332 ABs, 51 less than Jorge had. So, we can credibly state that the Jays have more power in the DH position than the Yankees and a better – and steadily increasing – slugging percentage.

That’s the interesting thing about Edwin that few people mention. It’s the fact that Edwin’s slugging percentage has always been a good one since he entered the majors. In fact, Edwin’s SLG % was the 12th best in the majors for all 3B. When you add the fact that he finished 9th in HRs with 21, out of all 3B, despite hitting in 242 fewer ABs than all others ahead of him – including Evan Longoriawho hit 22 HRs by the way – you get a sense of what Edwin’s worth could be to the Jays in 2011.

Few hitters reach a slugging percentage above .500 each year, and Edwin came very close to doing just that in 2010. With a full season of DH/1B play, let’s say 500 ABs, Edwin would have knocked out about 32 HRs, not too shabby for a guy with such a high slugging percentage to go along with that and I could see him reaching a .500 SLG% if he gets a full season under his belt. Could we expect 30+ HRs from Manny Ramirez, Magglio Ordonez, or Vladimir Guerrero at this point in their careers? Hell no. It could happen, but we couldn’t expect it to.

The Jays got themselves a real power bat, but still, I expect a lot of fans to be bitter because what they’ll remember is Edwin’s errors at 3B, not the power he provided within the lineup. Some fans and analysts are already pointing to this signing as Alex Anthopoulos’s first mistake. I say that it’s not even close. How can any $2.5 million deal be a mistake in today’s day and age? That amount of money for a player who can hit 30+ HRs and is a full-fledged FA is unheard of and should be congratulated, not criticized.

Edwin finished 2010 off strong with 8 HRs in September/October and a .661 SLG % during that span. If he begins 2011 the same way, while working his tail off for a valuable salary in 2012, I expect he will have a very productive season for the Jays. The value they will get from this signing is outstanding and the fact that they recognize his value as a full-time DH makes this a much better signing than if they had signed him to play 3B full-time. He does provide the Jays with the option, should conditions warrant it, to move people around – always a plus for a Manager – but Edwin will be much more valuable to the Jays as a 1B/DH.

Last point – why didn’t the Minnesota Twins pick this guy up? He hit 5 HRs in only 14 ABs in their new ballpark and had a ridiculous .571/.625/1.643 line while playing there. You’re telling me they couldn’t afford to take him on as a DH at a rate higher than what the Jays just got him for? Makes no sense to me, Jim Thome being available or not.

That fills yet another hole for the Jays and does leave them with A TON of money left to spend should they have the right situation. We’ll see what’s next soon enough, with the last piece of the puzzle being a closer. Signing Edwin may not seem like a major move to most Jays fans, but the Jays saved themselves  over $2 million by letting him walk before re-signing him, so you can at least see the positive there if not in what I listed above!

– MG

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