MLB Free Agency: Best Options for Edwin Encarnacion

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The Blue Jays have been one of the best offensive teams over the past six years. A large chunk of that production has come from Edwin Encarnacion. Now he is a free agent, and he looks to help whatever team he can.

Since 2009, the Jose BautistaEdwin Encarnacion tandem has provided a large chunk of production for the Toronto Blue Jays. Encarnacion has establushed himself as one of the best power hitters in baseball, while providing a large deal of protection for Bautista. In 2010, Encarnacion was one of seven Blue Jays to slug 20 home runs. The next season, Encarnacion’s batting average rose, but his power numbers dropped as he hit 17 home runs.

It wasn’t until 2012 where Encarnacion would break out, slugging over 40 home runs while driving in over 100 runs for the first time in his career. In 2013, Encarnacion would improve his plate discipline, drawing more walks than strikeouts for the first time in his career.

From 2013-2016, Encarnacion made three AL All-Star teams and was put into consideration for the AL MVP award on several occasions. This season was arguably Edwin’s best, as he set career-highs in several categories. He drove in 127 runs to set a personal high and lead the American League. He also appeared in 160 games while scoring 99 runs, collecting 158 hits, 87 walks, and 318 total bases.

His personal accomplishments over the past several years have made Encarnacion one of the best power hitters in baseball. As a result of the production of Encarnacion, Bautista, Josh Donaldson and company, the Jays clinched two consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1993 in 2015 and 2016. Despite their offensive presence, the Jays were eliminated both times.

Now, Encarnacion and Bautista are potentially set to depart, and they both look to make names for themselves elsewhere. There are teams out there who lack depth at first base that could also use Encarnacion’s offensive production.

Here are the most likely suitors for Edwin Encarnacion.

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New York Yankees

Last year, the Yankees took an unconventional route by abandoning their buying habits. They chose to instead sell and rebuild, while still contending for a spot in the playoffs. The moves have certainly paid off, as now the Yankees have youth, potential, and a bright future. Now they would definitely benefit from one big piece to bring all this youth together. Edwin Encarnacion can provide that piece to the puzzle, and a move to get him could certainly benefit all parties involved. Encarnacion could showcase his power at a much higher level considering Yankee Stadium’s status as a hitter’s bandbox. However, Encarnacion can also provide protection.

Adding Encarnacion gives the Yankees options at first base and third base, despite his defensive inconsistencies. It allows the Yankees a chance to give Gary Sanchez more opportunities at DH on days when he doesn’t catch, while shifting Encarnacion over to first. It also gives the Yankees an option in case Greg Bird‘s return from injury doesn’t pan out. Most importantly, Encarnacion can serve as a role model for Bird, Sanchez, and the other young talents on the Yankees. This move can benefit all parties and give Encarnacion a chance to be even more productive than before.

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Colorado Rockies

Every year, one of the best offensive teams in MLB are the Colorado Rockies. Factor in Coors Field and their crop of power hitters, and the Rockies are definitely an offensive team to watch. Last season was no different, and despite an experiment of expanding the right field wall, Coors Field was still a hitter’s dream park. The Rockies dealt with injuries last season, especially in their infield. Next season, Trevor Story, DJ LeMahieu, and Nolan Arenado are all set to man the infield. That leaves a hole at first base, however, and the Rockies look to be an ideal suitor for several big name free agent first basemen.

Edwin Encarnacion can certainly fill that hole. Despite being more suited as a designated hitter, a signing of Encarnacion could provide more offensive production from that already stacked lineup. He can also serve as necessary protection for Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup. Just like with the Yankees, signing Encarnacion can provide a veteran presence to the Rockies infield, and he can be a role model for the younger infielders such as Arenado, Cristhian Adames, and Pat Valaika. Encarnacion has also had playoff experience, and has come up in clutch situations in the postseason. If the Rockies are serious about making a playoff run, Edwin Encarnacion can be their key to success.

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Cleveland Indians

Sometimes, if you can’t beat them, you join them. In the 2016 postseason, the Indians and Blue Jays advanced to the ALCS together after sweeping the Red Sox and Rangers, respectively. The Indians took a commanding 3-0 lead and lost the fourth game of the series before winning the deciding fifth game to win the AL pennant. A majority of these games were pitchers’ duels and, as a result, both offenses floundered.

While Edwin Encarnacion was red-hot in the ALDS, he cooled off against the Indians, only hitting .211 (4-for-19) in the ALCS. The Indians are likely losing Mike Napoli this offseason, which leaves a hole open at first base.

Edwin Encarnacion struggled against the Indians in the playoffs, and joining them isn’t out of the question. Encarncacion can serve as a better replacement for Mike Napoli, and he can alternate with Carlos Santana at first base. If the Indians want to continue their successful run, signing some big free agents may be necessary. With the return of Michael Brantley coming, Encarnacion can serve as protection for him in the lineup.

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