Yankees Rumors: Bombers to Replace Teixeira with Encarnacion?

In his latest column Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball names the New York Yankees as one of three potential landing spots for free agent DH Edwin Encarnacion this winter.

Heyman sees the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mariners as the three most likely suitors for Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion when the 33-year-old hits the open market in the offseason. Boston and New York are both losing long-time fixtures in the middle of their lineup following 2016, with David Ortiz and Mark Teixeira both set to retire.

Encarnacion compares favorably with both players over the last few seasons, having quietly been one of the most consistently productive power bats in the American League. Since 2012, Encarnacion has averaged 38.6 home runs and and 109.2 RBI, never finishing with less than 34 and 98. EE also has five straight seasons with an OPS above .900.

The three-time All-Star has shown no signs of slowing down, hitting .266/.355/.546 (136 OPS+) in 658 PA for Toronto. He’s tied his career-high with 42 home runs this year and currently leads baseball with 123 RBI.

While it is common for all the big names on the free agent market to be speculatively tied to the Yankees, it’s far from clear that GM Brian Cashman has the green light to hand out big salaries this winter, even with some big contracts set to come off the books soon.

That said, Encarnacion would fill a real need for New York. The team currently has Greg Bird, Tyler Austin, and Brian McCann penciled in as their first base/DH options.

Bird had a monster couple of months during his 2015 debut, but the shoulder surgery that caused him to miss all of this year is a real concern. It may take him a full season of work to get his power back.

Tyler Austin also has yet to prove he belongs at the major league level, even in a part time role. As impressive as his strong performance was in Triple-A, he’s hitting just .206/.260/.382 (69 OPS+) in 73 plate appearances and has been more or less shoved aside by Oakland castoff Billy Butler. It’s also worth remembering that Austin looked to be on the verge of washing out of baseball entirely last season.

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If the Yankees don’t trade McCann this winter, it’s not clear he has the bat to warrant a full-time DH role at this point. Keeping him as a backup catcher who also sees some time at first base and DH is probably what he’s best suited for, and that would still leave room for Encarnacion.

Heyman estimates a four year $80 million deal for EE, which New York should do in a heartbeat given how consistently excellent he’s been. Power hitters with good plate discipline tend to age pretty well, and using him at DH full time should keep him fresh and productive through his late 30’s.

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