Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is set to become a free agent at the end of this season, where his consistent production over the past several years should earn him a significant payday on a multi-year deal.
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is retiring at season’s end. And thus aligns the (over)simplified logic.
In early January, we looked at a rumour that the Red Sox were eyeing one of Encarnacion or Jose Bautista as the heir to Ortiz’s role with the Sox in 2017. With Encarnacion the more natural fit to DH, though (despite Bautista’s defensive regression), he’s become the likelier fit to jump between AL East teams. Because hey, why even wait until the seventh game of the season to begin worrying about 2017, right?
On Friday, Rob Bradford of Full Count WEEI spoke with Ortiz about the possibility, and he’s all-in on the idea of Encarnacion.
“Hell, yeah. He’s a perfect replacement,” Ortiz said. “Because of everything, but mostly because he can hit.”
Encarnacion gave the right answers when asked about the possibility, saying that he hasn’t thought about it and is looking forward to focusing on his current season, adding that he’s spoken with Ortiz before about the nature of DH’ing on a full-time basis and the challenges the come along with it.
He does not, however, buy in to the idea that he’s strictly a DH.
“I don’t want to be a full-time DH because I’m still young and I know I can still play good defense,” he said. “When I first started playing DH the one person I asked about doing it was David Ortiz. He talked to me about it and I learned a lot about it, because it’s not easy to just being a DH. But I don’t feel like I’m going to be a full-time DH. I feel like I can still play defense.”
Truth be told, Encarnacion’s first base defence isn’t as bad as many portray it to be. Perhaps he’s carried over some of his reputation from his ‘E-5’ days playing at third. But especially with the potential that the National League adopts the DH spot, he’s likely destined for that role with a handful of starts in the field when needed.
So what does this mean for the Blue Jays right now? Frankly, nothing. At most. The recent departure of David Price to the Red Sox makes this a sore spot, however, and you can already hear the masses displeased with the new regime crying “of course!”
Bats like Encarnacion’s and Bautista’s will attract interest from most clubs, and a true bidding pursuit from several. It appears that both will at least be given the opportunities to dip their toe into the free agent waters, and yes, Boston is a logical fit. Besides, after Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, they’re due for a signing to go right.
The pull of Ortiz and Boston’s deep pockets would make them a legitimate favourite, as well. But for now, it’s little more than a worry worth saving for next November.