The Toronto Blue Jays have signed first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion to a three year contract extension worth $29 million, including a $2 million buyout for a $10 million club option for the 2016 season.
It’s no secret that Encarnacion has experienced a renaissance (and then some) this season. The one time burgeoning star with the Cincinnati Reds fell on tough times after a wrist injury from which he never properly recovered. He was eventually traded to Toronto in the Scott Rolen deal, and while with the Blue Jays, he’s gone from being a scourge to fans with his poor defense to something of a saviour this season with the best offensive numbers of his career. As Ben Nicholson Smith points out at MLB Trade Rumors, over the last three years, Enccarnacion has been traded, claimed, non-tendered and designated for assignment.
The Blue Jays are certainly “buying high” here, but not to the point where it appears to handcuff them in the future. Comparing the deal to Josh Willingham’s three year $21 million contract is likely unfair because that’s an incredibly great contract for the Minnesota Twins that was signed on the open market. While falling short of finding the value that the Twins did with their free agent expenditure, the Encarnacion contract compares quite well to another three year deal handed out this past winter. The Colorado Rockies spent $31.5 million on the next three years of Michael Cuddyer’s career.
While typically teams save a few dollars by offering an extension before a player hits free agency, it makes sense that this deal should fall somewhere between the underpay for Willingham and the overpay for Cuddyer.
If we look at it in vacuum terms of dollars per WAR, we can say that the will be worthwhile if Encarnacion puts up five wins above replacement over the next three seasons. This suggests to me that the Blue Jays believe that the numbers Encarnacion is putting up in 2012 is closer to the true talent level of the player than his offensive contributions in any year prior to this one. That’s not a terrible gamble given the obvious changes Encarnacion has made in his plate discipline and the staggering results so far this season.
In terms of ensuring more T-Rex home run trots, it’s a fantastic deal.