While it’s taken longer than expected, it seems the free agency period for Edwin Encarnacion is soon to be over. No, he won’t be returning to the Toronto Blue Jays unless something happens in the last minute. The Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Oakland A’s are a lot closer to signing him.
Encarnacion’s agents have been talking a lot over the last few days, and it seems they’ve contacting execs around the league over the last 24 hours, letting them know he’s soon going to be off the market. Whether it’s a four year or three year deal is still unknown. Encarnacion, through his reps, tried to convey he was very interested in returning to the Blue Jays, but considering he was probably offered four years and $80 million, something he declined, that just seems like something said for PR sake.
The market developed slowly for Encarnacion, who isn’t the perfect free agent. He’s a defensive liability, he’s almost 34, and he costs a draft pick. All that is balanced with his 42 home runs and 127 RBIs last season, along with his terrific five-year run in Toronto (he’s been there since 2009 but really started producing in 2012), averaging 38.6 home runs while batting .272 and posting a .912 OPS. He dreamed of Yoenis Cespedes money, but that’s not going to happen.
Assuming no one is going to give him $80 million over four years, and it is difficult imagining both the Indians and the A’s offering those kind of sums, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Encarnacion doing what Cespedes did last season. Sign a three year deal with a player option after the first season. This makes it easier for small-revenue ball clubs to compete for Encarnacion, but it almost guarantees that he bolts after one season, if it goes as well as planned.
Maybe all the media talk is a way of trying to put pressure on the Blue Jays to jump into the bidding war and drive up Encarnacion’s price. However, their moves this offseason once Encarnacion rejected their offer seem to indicate that they’re over him, moving on to other names who don’t come at such a high price. The same can be said of Jose Bautista, who is also finding this offseason very difficult, although he’s coming off a down year, unlike Encarnacion.