Blue Jays rumours: Encarnacion’s shrinking market, Moreland interest

The Toronto Blue Jays remain on the shrinking list of teams linked to free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion

Standing still and waiting is rarely a good strategy.

Thankfully for the Blue Jays, baseball is one area where that can work.

With the Houston Astros signing Carlos Beltran and the New York Yankees signing Matt Holliday, the market of potential Edwin Encarnacion suitors is shrinking rapidly. Even if the Blue Jays’ interest in their long-time star rests at low-to-moderate, this is good news for those invested in his return.

The Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox remain logical fits, but with so many of the market’s top options remaining, even that can change. The signing of names like Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen — even while having no positional overlap with Encarnacion — can also eliminate a team from the bidding based on budgets alone.

Encarnacion is the type of signing that a team shapes an off-season around. With ~20-25 million annually as his expected salary, the team that signs Encarnacion isn’t likely to add him plus another impact name.

Then again, perhaps the Blue Jays have been used as leverage. No free agent has generated nearly as much back-and-forth buzz as Encarnacion, and no agent has come within 100 miles of Paul Kinzer in terms of interviews, radio appearances, and public quotes.

Late Sunday, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi put some cold water on the momentum of Encarnacion returning:

“The possibilities of a return to the Toronto Blue Jays seemed increasingly dim Sunday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, as Mitch Moreland emerged as a real possibility, according to multiple industry sources.”

In an oddball way, this does align with the Jays’ signing of Kendrys Morales and their extension of Justin Smoak. Even though it doesn’t make surface-level, clear-cut sense to the masses, the front office believes in it and is (potentially) ready to move. And even though Moreland would do little to the Jays’ ceiling, it would raise their floor. Somehow. Maybe.

Moreland handles right-handed pitchers well and is coming off a Gold Glove Award in 2016, but a low on-base tool and the clear redundancy does make it a very curious fit.

Patience will continue to be Toronto’s No. 1 weapon when it comes to Encarnacion. If his market becomes even softer than it already is, there should be a seat at the table for him. Otherwise, it’s time for Jays fans to continue looking down the off-season road.

A Mitch Moreland signing makes little sense in early December, but rosters don’t matter until early April.

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