Blue Jays: Don’t expect a return to Toronto for Edwin Encarnacion

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15: Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15: Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The Yankees declined the contract option on dwin Encarnaicion on Thursday, making him a free agent. While it’s fun to think about, he won’t be returning to Toronto.

I love nostalgia as much as anyone, and I’d argue that the Blue Jays play on those feelings as well and as frequently as any team in baseball. It’s fun to reminisce about the past, especially if the present isn’t all that exciting.

With that in mind, yesterday’s news that Edwin Encarnacion had his contract option declined by the New York Yankees had several Blue Jays fans excited about the idea of a possible reunion. While that’s a lot of fun to think about, I wouldn’t get your hopes up for something like that.

Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have made an effort to turn the page on the last era of Blue Jays baseball, with only Justin Smoak, Ryan Tepera, and an injured Devon Travis remaining on the roster in 2019. There’s a chance that they could all be gone by the time opening day rolls around, although I hope the Blue Jays keep Tepera to help bolster their bullpen depth. Whether they do or not, I don’t think they’re going to be turning back the clock for Encarnacion, and there are a few good reasons why they would avoid that scenario.

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First of all, he’s now 37 years old, and while he showed that he had plenty left to give in 2019, Father Time is going to catch up with him at some point, and it could happen in a flash. If he’s not hitting, ‘EE’ really doesn’t offer much else, as his only real defensive position is as a below-average first baseman these days. If he did regress in 2020 or beyond while under contract with the Blue Jays, we could be looking at a slightly improved version of what we had in Kendrys Morales a year ago, and that’s not an enviable spot.

The greater argument against bringing in a DH-only type like Encarnacion is the Blue Jays could really use that spot to help keep their young players in the lineup regularly. Guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio and more are going to need the occasional day off of their feet on defence, and having the ability to keep their bat in the lineup will be a useful tool in their development, especially with Vlad Jr. Having a guy like Encarnacion on the roster would block that sort of thing from happening, at least as regularly as it should be.

There’s also the issue of space on the 25-man roster, something the Blue Jays may be short on when next season rolls around. They’re already going to have to make some decisions on outfielders like Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford, who are out of minor league options, and roster flexibility is important when there is as much pitching turnover as they went through in 2019. It should be an improved pitching staff next season, but there’s no doubt that Charlie Montoyo will have to continue to use his pitching resources creatively.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be upset if the Blue Jays decided to bring back one of my favourite players in franchise history, but there comes a time when all good things must come to an end. For the partnership between the Blue Jays and Encarnacion, that probably came a few years ago when he left for Cleveland. Either way I wish him well, and I hope he signs anywhere but back in New York.

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