You have probably noticed that Edwin Encarnacion is hitting the cover off the baseball this year. He leads the team in slugging, OPS, wOBA, wRC+, and home runs. His 14 home runs are tied for second most in all of baseball. It’s great to watch a guy with an undeniable talent for hitting “put it all together” for an extended period of time.
Before Adam Lind’s demotion this week, it was easy to forget that EE was DFA’d, demoted, released and re-signed within the last two years. Quite a journey for a man who is now the team’s cleanup hitter. It is also easy to forget Edwin Encarnacion is just 29-years old and about to enter free agency for the very first time.
EE is putting together a tremendous walk year – getting into great shape and posting crazy numbers when he stands to profit most. The talk of “extend EE” began with earnest this spring and only grows louder with each successive big fly.
Surely the Blue Jays are interested in keeping the right-handed power bat in their reach but does anybody really think Edwin won’t at least toe the free agency waters? What will it take to lock down the artist formerly known as E5?
EE = Clutch. Man’s gonna get PAID
— Matthias Koster (@matthiaskoster) May 23, 2012
After reading Matthais of Mop Up Duty fame’s tweet, I immediately agreed. Encarnacion is sitting on a hefty payday, if his numbers come back down to Earth or otherwise. But then I got thinking…Edwin Encarnacion indeed one of the best hitters in baseball this season but he is, as previously mentioned, less than two years removed from kicking around the fringes of baseball. He was a man without a country, languishing on the bench and crushing PCL pitching for sport.
His E5 nickname also betrays a real lack of defensive value, though he makes a decent account of himself at first base (I guess.) Edwin stands to get a healthy raise from the $3.5 million he stands to earn in 2012 but, really, can we expect him to command an eight-figure annual salary? Consider Josh Willingham.
Josh Willingham is a very good hitter. In his six full seasons at the big league level, he never once posted an OPS below .800. His annual home runs totals over those six years? 26, 21, 15, 24, 16, 29. The two seasons he dipped below 20 represent the only years he managed less than 450 PA.
He’s very good. He’s durable and consistent. He was a free agent this offseason and received a nice contract from the Minnesota Twins: three years, $21 million bucks (with a health incentive for 2014 that worth $1M.) That’s it.
Like EE, Willingham isn’t much of a defender. Willingham is primarily a left fielder so EE’s new home at first base means the two players aren’t far apart on the defensive spectrum. Two players employed solely for their offense. Willingham was older than EE when he hit free agency but he is also, well, better. Is this contract a decent starting point for Encarnacion? It just might be.
Just three years ago, Adam Dunn hit free agency at 29 and signed a two-year deal with the Nats worth “just” $22 million total. Adam Dunn! EE might be a bad defender but he is not even close to Adam Dunn’s fielding butchery. With that in mind, no one in their right mind would argue Dunn’s production in the seasons leading to his free agency (five straight 40 home run seasons) eclipses even the most pie-in-the-sky projections for Encarnacion.
All of this is to suggest that, short of some GM losing his fool mind and shoving a truckload of cash in front of EE, the Jays should be able to ink Encarnacion at a pretty respectable price. It comes down to comfort level: the Jays known EE well and remain very high on his skills, sticking with Encarnacion through ups and downs. How many years get it done? How many years are they (or you, dear reader) comfortable with, keeping the potential outfield logjam/inevitable move of Jose Bautista to first/DH at the front of our minds?
If I had to guess, I’d say EE will trade dollars for years. Is two years, $16 million too little? A mutual option/buyout for a third year might get something done. Three years, $20M? That seems fair in a vacuum but considering what some other players got…I just don’t know. It is an interesting debate no matter what.
As stated above, I don’t think EE is going to pass up a chance to hit the open market. Everything is working in his favor to secure the biggest and longest pay day of his career. The Jays won’t be alone in bidding for his services but surely believe they have an inside track if they want to keep the popular masher in the mix.