6:25 PM Eastern
Back in Florida, Alex Anthopoulos said that whomsoever the Blue Jays were going to bring in to be their DH in 2011 was going to have to be a guy who could also be Adam Lind insurance at first base.
Who knew he was talking about someone who has made a whopping two appearances at the position over his six years in the majors?
Yes, Edwin Encarnacion is back after having hardly given us a chance to miss him, signing a one-year deal for $2.5 million with a club option for 2012 that’s worth $3.5 million. But don’t panic, true believers, he’s not coming back to ply his trade at the hot corner.
If Lind is going to spend the year basically breaking his maiden as a big-league first baseman, he simply cannot have Encarnacion at third base, firing missiles in his general direction with barely any idea where they’re going to wind up. No, Eddie is coming back to see if he can harness that tantalizing power and, free of the concerns that he may well hospitalize a patron sitting down the first-base line, become a big-time slugging DH.
There’s no question the power is there. We saw it on several occasions, most notably in Arizona back in May and then again in Minnesota at season’s end – he hit 10 of his 21 home runs this season in those two series alone. But thanks to a couple of stints on the disabled list and a trip to Las Vegas, Encarnacion hit those 21 dingers in just 96 games. And all while recovering from a wrist injury! Pro-rated over a full season, that works out to 35 bombs, and that’s what the Jays are hoping they might see from him as a full-time DH and Lind insurance at first base.
And before you dismiss the notion that Encarnacion might be able to be a decent defensive first baseman, remember this – the guy was an exceptional defender at third, he just couldn’t throw the ball. At all. At first base, he won’t have to worry about that, but for some underhanded tosses to the pitcher covering. And hopefully, Lind takes well enough to first that Encarnacion will only have to worry about hitting.
He’s certainly not the guy I expected would be DHing here next season, but it’s a very interesting gamble. Encarnacion is only 27 years old, and will be 28 by Opening Day. He carries a career .790 OPS into this season with an even 100 home runs in 2540 career plate appearances. That’s a higher OPS than Aaron Hill – even before Hill’s crappy 2010 – and more homers in fewer PA’s.
The reason most Jays fans are down on the man you can no longer call “E5″ (he’s no longer a third baseman, after all) is because of the ugly, ugly defensive issues that have plagued him his entire career. He has finally thrown in the towel on third base, much to the delight of the spectatorate and maybe against his will, but however it happened, he could well go from being a good hitter with big-time power to a really good hitter who consistently gets results from his big-time power. It’s only costing the Jays $2.5 million to find out. And hey, he had a .914 OPS against lefties this past season.
I know I’d said I was going to throw together a mailbag, you may have to wait until next week for that. Maybe I’ll put it up on the 25th to give you some xmas reading material if you’re interested, so keep those comments coming. I’ll pick some out to answer in the next post unless the Jays do something else in the interim.
And make sure you tune in to The Fan590 the week after xmas – they’re having me come in to host a few shows. I’ll be on on the 28th from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, filling in for Jeff Blair on the 29th from 9:00 am to noon and taking Greg Brady’s shift on the 30th from 1:00-3:00 pm (all times Eastern). There will be plenty of baseball talk, lots of Blue Jays guests and my big brother will come in to talk about the year in movies (and your favourite sports movies) on the 30th!