Edwin Encarnacion: The Unproductive DH On The Block?

Now that the Jays are beginning to slide a little from the AL leaders, some people are starting to point fingers. Some say it’s the fault of GM Alex Anthopoulos for not bringing the young guns up earlier. Some say it’s due to the many games lost to injury combined with “needed” demotions. Others say that it was just meant to be. And the pointing goes on. Having read and listened to all that has been put out there, there are only 3 things that I know as factual: it’s NOT the pen’s fault, it’s NOT Jose Bautista‘s fault, and Edwin Encarnacion has been a near disastrous signing as the Jays DH.

To be fair to Alex Anthopoulos in Edwin’s case, he didn’t sign him to a Frank Thomassized contract. Thomas had been signed by JP Ricciardi for a whopping $18.12 millionover 2 years and didn’t stay with the Jays to finish that contract. However, he did hit 26 HRs with a .277/.377/.480 line during his first season of that contract, earning at least part of what was one of many crazy contracts handed out by Ricciardi during his tenure at the helm. Instead, Anthopoulos paid only $2.5 million for Edwin’s services in 2011 and kept himself the option of paying $3.5 million in 2012 with a $0.5 million buyout. (all figures from Cot’s Baseball Contracts) What has he received for that smaller amount thus far in 2011? He has not hit 1 HR yet, and has a meager .245/.272/.357 line.

I have to admit that I bought in to the whole “he has another gear” indication made by Anthopoulos and many others before the season started. Some even had dreams of Edwin hitting 40 HRs at one point in his career. But, at this point and after a disappointing month and a bit to the year, he’ll be lucky to remain in the starting lineup through to the end of the year if he continues to be a lower end of the lineup DH and a liability at 3B. In 121 innings at 3B he has 6 errors to his credit, good for a .800 fielding percentage. My message to everyone who’ll listen: STOP putting him at 3B!!! It does him no good because like any human being, he feels shame, and he obviously needs a ton of work at the plate, so ruining any positives from his ABs by letting him feel stress while at 3B just mitigates any progress made.

A quote from an article posted on MLBTR by Ben Nicholson-Smith stated the following:

“Anthopoulos says he thinks Encarnacion has “one more gear in there” and while he hesitated before comparing him to Bautista, the GM says he can see Encarnacion hitting 30 homers or more in 2011.”

Now, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Edwin does have 30 HR potential. The question is, while he ever REALIZE that potential? After such a horrid start to 2011, there’s little doubt that it will not happen this season. So, where does that leave Edwin and the Jays? Is there still a chance that he’ll stick around all season long? And if so, at who’s expense? I, for one, do not feel that he has earned enough respect as the Jays DH to earn another shot in 2012 – a season that should see the Jays take a giant leap forward in the standings. He has 7 RBIs after a good chunk of the season has gone by, so how could anyone make a case for him to be retained in 2012 by the Jays?

Having said that, it does not mean that there is no team out there interested in his services for both the second half of 2011 and 2012. There are teams out there who need a 1B, and also need a 30 HR potential hitter. Teams such as the Oakland A’s, the San Diego Padres, and the Seattle Mariners (to name a few) all need a power bat and all could use 1B/DH depth. The genius of what the Jays have done this season is that they’ve played Edwin at 1B enough to ensure that all teams see him as a viable 1B option, bringing his trade value up to another level.

Now, the people who disagree with giving up on Edwin will point to his .293/.325/.427 line against RHP with 10 of his 11 extra base hits coming during those 75 ABs. He simply can’t hit LHP this season, with a meager .087/.087/.130 line and 1 extra base hit. Moral of the story? At best, Edwin is a platoon player, not an every day starter, who is liable to be muted late in games by crafty managers who force him to face LHP by throwing southpaws at him out of their pens. Knowing this, however, the teams listed above can still make the appropriate assessment and take him on knowing that they’ll need an altertnative for such situations.

The Jays could have signed Vladimir Guerrero this off season for about 4 times the price of Edwin. He has 4 HRs and a .267/.289/.389 line for the Orioles. They could have signed Johnny Damonfor just over double what Edwin cost. He has 5 HRs and a .256/.285/.432 line for the Rays. In fact, with the struggles of Rajai Davisat the plate and at the top of the lineup, Damon would have given the Jays some much needed lineup flexibility. But, they weren’t interested. The Red Sox have David Ortizhitting 4 HRs with a .292/.382/.451 line as their DH, while the Yankees have used Jorge Posadathe majority of the time who has done very nicely power wise with 6 HRs, but holds a horrible .152/.257/.354 line. That puts Edwin and the Jays as dead last in DH production, by far!

So what are the Jays going to do from here on out? Do they test the waters to see if another team, such as those listed above, is willing to deal them something worthwhile for Edwin? Or, do they hang on to him until he gets hot in order to make that move? I believe that they will wait until they are ready to promote Brett Lawrie and Eric Thames, and that once they are ready, they’ll pull the trigger on a deal – if there’s one to be made, that is. While we all agree that the Jays will aggressively look to move Juan Rivera, it could be Edwin Encarnacion who’s the first to be moved, because even after a slow 2011 start, some will believe in his true potential and will like how his bat plays at 1B.

The A’s had already picked up Edwin once last season before waiving him. With the Jays picking up Danny Farquharfrom them even after having dealt him there in return for Rajai Davis, som may ask if they could now look to do the same and get Trystan Magnusonback as well? Well, through 11 appearances in AAA for the Athletics he has a 1.76 ERA and 1.043 whip to go with 3 saves, 8 BB, and 16 Ks. I don’t see why he couldn’t be part of the returns, but it’s possible that the Jays could do better or could get more from the A’s if they wait for Edwin to get at least a 1/2 dozen HRs under his belt before making the move. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the A’s could use a power bat, so they’re my favorites to land Edwin, should the Jays deal him.

If not the A’s, the Mariners, in a deal for David Aardsmaperhaps, could be next in line. Aardsma, who could become the favorite to compete for the Jays closing job in 2012, is recovering from forearm injury. The 2012 season will be the 3rd and last arbitration eligible season for Aardsma who is earning $4.5 millionthis season, so he’d likely cost about $5 million for the 2012 season. Some money could be exchanged in this case since the injury issues could be worrisome to the Jays as they’d be inheriting most of the risk, but it does make some sense on the surface. If Aardsma proves healthy sometime during 2011, the Jays can then use some of their other great pen additions as trade pieces at the perfect time fo the season – right around the trade deadline.

In either case, the moving of Edwin allows the Jays to do one very important thing: give J. P. Arencibiamore ABs. Why? Well, he’s losing way too much playing time to Jose Molinabehind the plate (not a knock on Molina at all, I just know that Arencibia needs more ABs to get better in The Show). The Jays have been extremely reluctant to use the big guy as their DH despite his hitting .375/.464/.542 against lefties – something that should put Edwin on the bench and JP as the DH EVERY time the Jays face a lefty!!! With more ABs overall, however, JP could start to improve on his 3 HRs and .197/.234/.459 line versus RHP, something he really needs to do before he can become a mature hitter.

The Jays are making little sense at this point in the season and look to me as a team that’s trying to squeeze every penny possible for a future run (2012 and beyond). There’s no way Brett Lawrie or Eric Thames should still be in AAA with the way they’re playing. There’s no way the Jays should have ever been forced to use Edwin Encarnacion at 3B. And, there’s no way that they should have received 0 HRs and 7 RBI from their DH thus far into the season. All of these things point to a worrisome trend for this season, and one that I can’t wait to see end with a flurry of moves ranging from promotions to trades and waives.

The time to make changes in Toronto is coming. And Edwin Encarnacion could be the very first player to go on the block as one of the league’s most unproductive DHs.

What are your thoughts on Edwin thus far in 2011? Will he be moved? And if so, where?

- MG

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Tags: Brett Lawrie Edwin Encarnacion Eric Thames Frank Thomas Jose Bautista JP Arencibia Juan Rivera

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