Blue Jays: Re-signing Edwin Encarnacion about more than nostalgia

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 17: Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays warms up during batting practice prior to game three of the American League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre on October 17, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 17: Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays warms up during batting practice prior to game three of the American League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre on October 17, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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If the Blue Jays end up re-signing Edwin Encarnacion, feeding our nostalgia won’t be the only benefit. The 36-year-old still has a lot to offer, both on and off the field.

For those of us that have been following the Blue Jays for many years, the past few seasons have been tough to swallow. Not only has the team limped to 73 and 67 win seasons over the past two years, we’ve also witnessed a full-on rebuild that’s been put into motion, and a new era of Blue Jays baseball has begun.

Justin Smoak, Ryan Tepera, and Devon Travis were the last three Blue Jays remaining from the playoff squads of 2015 and 2016, and none of them will be around in 2020. Smoak signed with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this week, Tepera with the Cubs, and Travis remains a free agent at this point, but almost certainly won’t be back. Just when it looked like a new leaf had been completely turned over, we’re hearing reports that the Blue Jays are interested in a reunion with Edwin Encarnacion, who left for Cleveland after the 2016 campaign.

The idea of bringing back Encarnacion could be viewed in a number of different ways, and admittedly comes as a bit of a surprise for this writer. That said, a reunion could make sense on a few different levels, and it sounds like there is mutual interest. With Smoak signing in Milwaukee, the Blue Jays could really use someone to help shore things up between first base and designated hitter. Rowdy Tellez looks like he’s set to take over, and while the Blue Jays sound like they want to hand him the reigns and see what he can do, it would be good to have some reinforcements in place.

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Encarnacion battled a few injuries last season while splitting time between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees, but he was very productive while on the field. He ended up slashing .244/.344/.531, hitting 34 home runs, 18 doubles, and collecting 86 RBI in just 418 at-bats. He appeared in a total of 109 games, finishing the season with 2.7 bWAR despite playing roughly two thirds of a season.

He’s likely a step down defensively from the sure-handed glove of Smoak at first base, but Encarnacion is still a capable gloveman when needed. He appeared at first base 45 times out of the 109 games he played in last season, with baseballreference.com scoring him at -0.4 for dWAR over 384.1 innings on defence. For comparison’s sake, Tellez struggled to a mark of -0.7 dWAR over 483 innings at first base. As uninspiring as those numbers may seem, Justin Smoak came in at -0.9 last season too.

Defence is certainly important, but for Tellez, the 2020 campaign will be more about proving his bat can be a weapon in a MLB lineup on a consistent basis. He’s been fairly streaky at the highest level so far during his young career, and last year he needed a short stint in Triple-A to get himself back on track. I’m not sure the Blue Jays are convinced that he’s totally past the point of his career that it couldn’t happen again, which is why bringing in another player capable of manning first base is important.

And if you’re going to bring in a veteran at a bat-first position like first base/designated hitter, why not add some thump to the lineup? As we’ve mentioned above, Encarnacion is still a productive hitter despite being in the latter stages of his career, and his presence will move the needle. As things stand right now (if Encarnacion re-signed), the Blue Jays are probably trotting out a lineup that looks something like this:

1- Bo Bichette (SS)
2- Cavan Biggio (2B)
3- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B)
4- Encarnacion (DH)
5- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
6- Randal Grichuk (RF)
7- Teoscar Hernandez (CF)
8- Tellez (1B)
9- Danny Jansen (C)

That’s already looking like a pretty formidable lineup, and there’s a chance the Blue Jays could still add another outfielder as well. Encarnacion would give them another legitimate bat for the heart of the lineup, lengthening the offence for Charlie Montoyo, and providing his young teammates with some protection.

On top of all of the benefits he would bring on the field, having a strong role model like Encarnacion would be a major plus, especially with so many talented young players around him. Just as we saw youngsters like Vlad Jr., Gurriel Jr., and other players from the Dominican Republic and from Cuba flock to Kendrys Morales in the past, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them looking to learn from a guy like Encarnacion.

Next. Offers made for Ryu and Encarnacion. dark

And when you’ve had a successful career that’s already spanned 15 seasons, including 414 career home runs, there is plenty to learn from. Sure, the idea of a reunion with Encarnacion is fun for a bunch of nostalgic reasons, but in reality is makes sense on a number of practical levels as well. As long as we’re talking about a 1-2 year contract, which I’m sure is the case, then I’m fully in favour of the idea. Just think of how happy we’ll all be if he “walks the parrot” in a Blue Jay uniform again.

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