The Lesser of Two Evils: Edwin Encarnacion or Juan Rivera?


Few Blue Jays have been less popular this season than Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Rivera. They have certainly struggled at times and fans have been clamoring to ship them out of town, whether it be in a trade for a bucket of balls or an outright release.

Both players have managed to contribute at times and seem to be turning the corner, but both have been hard to watch other times. There are pros and cons to to retaining each player, which are outlined here to better prepare you for this inevitable question:

If you could release one of them today and HAD to hold on to the other, which one would you send packing and why?

Encarnacion

The Good:

With Encarnacion – also known as E5, E3, EE, and whatever else people are calling him these days – he was signed this offseason at a bargain price of $2.5 million to be the Jays’ primary DH. Out of the 58 games that he has appeared in so far this season, he has started at DH in just 20 of them. Interestingly enough, the longest stretch of consecutive games that Encarnacion has been the DH this season is only four, and it would be interesting to see how he would do with more regular playing time at DH.

In Spring Training, skipper John Farrell pointed out that Edwin’s problem in the past has been games where not only does he have to worry about hitting, but he has to worry about playing a position in the field as well. It’s pretty easy to understand why, too, because with the boos from a home crowd for his defense on top of making errors, Encarnacion’s brain is likely too focused on worrying about his fielding rather than on what he’s going to do at the plate when he steps in the box.

The numbers back it up as well. In the 20 games Encarnacion has been the DH, he’s gone 26-for-76 (.342) with seven doubles, two home runs, and six RBIs. In his five games as a first baseman, he went 5-for-21 (.238) with one extra-base hit, and as a third baseman, he has gone 18-for-90 (.200) with 14 strikeouts and nine doubles.

Speaking of doubles, Encarnacion actually leads the entire Jays team with 17, even though he has bounced around positions and had inconsistent playing time. If the Jays actually played Encarnacion as a full-time DH for a decent stretch of games – the spot they signed him to play – it would allow him to solely focus on hitting.

As much as people probably don’t want to hear, Encarnacion has heated up lately, hitting .280/.345/.500 in 15 June games compared to .247/.270/.349 that he hit in 39 games between April and May.

The Bad:

Encarnacion’s .290 on-base percentage is certainly a concern, and it’s noticeable given how much he has been swinging this year.He has drawn only nine walks in 196 plate appearances this season, and his 4.3 BB% is currently the lowest of his career. His 14.3 K% is also the lowest of his career though too.

The Ugly:

Fielding has easily been the ugliest aspect of Encarnacion’s game this season. He’s committed a total of 11 errors in 35 games this season, including eight at third base and three at first. One of his worst moments of the season was when he played first base against the Rays on May 18, committing two errors and had the chance of being charged with one or two more if the scorekeeping had gone a different way.

It’s no secret that Encarnacion is far less effective on the field that he could be in the batter’s box, so the simple decision would be to put his glove in a display case permanently and start him exclusively as a DH for a while, no?

Rivera

The Good:

Aside from Jose Bautista and his league leading 65 walks, Yunel Escobar is second on the team with 34, followed by Rivera with 22. He has shown the ability to be patient at the plate, drawing clutch walks at times as well, and his 8.5% walk rate is currently the highest of his career, though the same can be said of his 16.2% strikeout rate, and his overall on-base percentage is far from impressive.

Rivera was a beast when the Jays played a four game series in Texas back in April, and he has shown on multiple occasions that he is a very streaky hitter. Those four games in Texas were nestled in the middle of a nice nine game hitting streak to close out April, more than doubling his average from .103 to .233. Prior to his 0-for-5 showing May 30 against Cleveland, Rivera had managed an 11-game hit streak from May 19-29, where he hit seven doubles, two home runs, and .386/.426/.682 over that span. Coincidentally, Rivera started at first base for all of those 11 games.

The Bad/Ugly:

Rivera’s obvious lack of hustle at the beginning of the season irked many Jays fans, myself included, and the biggest downfall with him is plainly the position he plays. The Jays have far more exciting players that can play in the outfield over Rivera – thankfully one of them, Eric Thames, has already returned to the Jays – and the Jays already have enough right-handed hitters in the lineup to choose from as well.

Anthopoulos is likely only trying to keep giving Rivera at-bats up until the trade deadline to be able to at least move him for some kind of return, and I would highly doubt Rivera continues to steal at-bats from other Jays players after July 31.

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Now, comparing Encarnacion and Rivera, if you had the opportunity to release one of them right now and HAD to keep the other, which one would you ship out of town?

If you had the opportunity to release only ONE of these players, who would it be?

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-JM

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Tags: Edwin Encarnacion Juan Rivera Toronto Blue Jays

  • blueboo

    With Batista at third why is Nix still here? Then you can decide whether EE or Riveria goes. They would all be gone as far as I am concerned.

  • Steve

    Nix, Rivera and Encarnacion will all go – and in that order. Nix should already be gone. Rivera will go when Snider is healthy. Interesting point in your article about E5′s success during the rare opportunities he’s had to DH. If he’s hitting the way he’s expected to as the DH, Encarnacion will stick around until the end of the season. If he’s not, then July or August. I don’t think giving any of these guys more at-bats is going to increase their trade values. Nobody else wanted them during the off-season when they were available and, if anything, they lower their already low trade value with each game played. They are merely holding positions until the guys who take over are ready to take over.

  • Keith

    Jared good article and well researched. A couple of points:
    1 – while it was great to get Wells contract off the books, we have had to live with Rivera and the kids (Thames, Lawrie & Snider) have had to see more of AAA than they may have needed too. Although I think the real reason for Snider and Lawrie going back down was to manage super 2 status
    2 – I really think that EE has been miss cast by this management team. He is a DH and would have been fine in that role. But we put him at 3rd and 1st for reasons beyond my comprehension.

    I hope we DFA Nix soon (likely when Litch comes back). Rivera can then go when we call Snider back up. But I hope we give EE a half season of AB’s at DH to give him a fair shake. I just hope that I never have to witness the butchery that is an outfeild of Rivera, Patterson and Thames (left to right).

    • http://www.jayjournal.com Jared Macdonald

      Keith, I couldn’t agree with you more that EE has been mismanaged by the Jays so far this season. Aside from him being one of the nicest players on the team, it will be interesting to see how he performs with a longer stint as the consistent DH now that interleague is done. Sure enough, the game that was played when I published this story, EE hits two homers. A sign?

  • NoScoutHere

    AA says pick your poison Jays fans !