First baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion will be a free agent on Tuesday, and is expected to have many suitors.
Edwin Encarnacion will be one of the hottest commodities on the free agent market this offseason, and his agent Paul Kinsler knows it.
The 33 year old first baseman/designated hitter is arguably the best hitter on the free agent market this year, and he’ll be looking to cash in after eight seasons played with the Toronto Blue Jays. Encarnacion just finished a 3 year, $29 million deal and made $10 million on his 2016 option. Considering he finished with a +3.7 bWAR, that was an absolute bargain.
The Blue Jays have extended him the qualifying offer, which he’s guaranteed to turn down. The qualifying offer this season sits at 17.2 million, and the slugger is set to far exceed that total, with a multi-year pact to boot.
TSN’s Rick Westhead reported on Wednesday that Encarnacion and his agent, Paul Kinzer, are seeking 5 years and $125 million for his client. Kinzer claims he’s heard from as many as 11 teams already, even if they can’t make a formal offer until Tuesday.
Kinzer told Westhead, “He proved this year that he is a solid first baseman and I think that will make him attractive to National League teams as well (as AL teams). The market will dictate what he gets, but I’d like to see him get 5 years”.
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The talented slugger finished the 2016 season with a line of .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL leading 127 RBI (tied with David Ortiz). He was durable, playing in 160 games, and also played more games defensively than he has in recent reasons. With Jose Bautista‘s injuries relegating him to DH at times, Encarnacion’s versatility was important to the team, especially down the stretch.
After coming to the Jays back in 2009 in a trade involving Scott Rolen, the Dominican slugger has amassed 239 home runs in a Blue Jays uniform. He started out as a third-baseman and eventually moved across the diamond to much greater success. Encarnacion has been a primary DH in recent seasons, but still flashed enough with the leather to make believers out of GMs around the MLB.
The three-time All-Star will be 34 on opening day next season and hasn’t showed any signs of decline yet. The Blue Jays have tried to limit his time in the field in order to keep his dynamic bat in the lineup as he missed 34 games in 2014, 28 in 2011, and smaller amounts in other seasons. 2016 actually represents his healthiest season in a Blue Jays uniform, which will help his case in free agency.
It’s a lot of money and a long commitment for a primary DH, but Encarnacion has become one of the most feared hitters in the MLB. Those don’t come cheap. He’ll likely settle for less, but there’s no harm in the Kinzer setting the bar high at this point in the offseason.
“Edwing” expressed interest in returning to Toronto, so it’s entirely possible he could finish his career as a Blue Jay. We’ll just have to see if Rogers and the new front office are willing to commit that type of money to the beloved veteran.
Update – Monday Evening
Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reported on Monday evening that there could be some traction between the team and Encarnacion as free agency opens.
“The Toronto Blue Jays are making a push to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion after some fruitful talks have apparently given the free-agent slugger something to think about, industry sources told Sportsnet,” Davidi wrote.
Ken Rosenthal seems to add to the information here by reporting that the two sides will talk again tomorrow. While the five-day window of exclusivity (which ended last night) rarely brings signings, it does offer as a valuable time to establish potential parameters.
More on this story as it develops.