Blue Jays’ DH, Edwin Encarnacion, is surpassing his pre-season predictions and could be setting himself up nicely for his impending free agency.
We didn’t really think we’d heard the end of the Edwin Encarnacion– Toronto Blue Jays contract situation, did we? Throughout the winter and Spring Training we were constantly reminded that there was no agreement in place for beyond the 2016 season. Throughout that period and into the season, we would hear constant reminders that this could be the last season in Toronto for The Walker of Parrots. Now that the season is well under way, there are rumblings of the Trade Deadline approaching and what that could mean for the 33 yr old.
The same can be said for Jose Bautista, perhaps more so. But unlike real life, this piece will bring Edwin out of the shadow of his older counterpart and put the focus squarely on him. After all, the argument exists that Encanrnacion has been the more productive of the two, which is kind of the point. Edwin is outperforming his pre-season projections and could be setting himself up for a nice payday in the fall.
Before we continue, we will begrudgingly acknowledge the narrative that surrounds the Trade Deadline. So, as the Blue Jays currently sit 5.5 games out of first place, it is easy to allow frustration get the better of you and throw your hands in the air and say the season is over. It’s been done many times already…this season alone. IF you’re prone to such fits, then you’ll probably suggest trading Edwin to get something for him before he departs via free agency. If the season is lost, it makes sense. Of course, that completely ignores the player’s 10-5 rights; his right to refuse any trade that comes with being in the league 10 yrs- 5 with the same team. This stipulation is obvious, yet seems to be conveniently tossed aside depending on the narrative being forced. So, we’d have to assume that Edwin would agree to any trade.
But, why would he? The season is not, in fact, over. 5.5 games can be erased. This team is too good, has too much talent, to believe they won’t contend. And, that is what players want: to contend. So, moving on from there, the more likely scenario is that Edwin continues to mash his way into free agency wearing Blue Jays blue.
This is where it gets very interesting. Back in January, I wrote about the possible regression that Edwin would be facing as he ages. At the time, Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs attempted to identify players who were due for regression. Edwin was on Zimmerman’s list. It made sense. EE is aging and, as such, certainly should be expected to see his production decline.
Perhaps because of the idea of regression, the pre-season predictions for Edwin were not too kind. Take a look at a sample of the projections post I did before the season started:
As of right now, Edwin is approaching these numbers rather nicely. Heading into the June 30 series against the Indians, he sits on 21 HR, 70 RBI, 19 2B, 51 R, 78 H, 42 BB (12.1%) and 66 K (19.1%). His line is .264/.359/.541 with an ISO of .277. He’s got a wRC+ of 137 and 2.0 WAR.
As luck would have it, the club has played 80 games in 2016. This allows for us to say that what Edwin has done thus far in half a season can be roughly projected for the remainder. Now, that is of course a very weak mathematical endeavor. Obviously, we can’t simply take what he’s done in half a season and just double it to see what he could do for the full season. That is flawed. Readers should not go ahead and put money down based on this line of thinking.
That said, let’s do it anyway…just for fun. By doubling half a season’s stats (to get a possible idea of the full season) we see 42 HR, 140 RBI, 38 2B, 102 R, 156 H, 84 BB, 132 K. This would certainly be a surprise to ZiPS, Steamer and Fans (especially since it is a flawed way of thinking). Realistically, fans of the Blue Jays wouldn’t really be surprised if these numbers played out, or at least came close to fruition. Other teams may be more surprised, though; they may be more skeptical as to the future, too.
This is the tricky part in free agency. The value a player has often is higher with his previous team, especially since he’s been there for so long. Blue Jays Land loves Edwin Encarnacion. Toronto sees the everyday value he brings. Other teams will be looking at his numbers…and his age. A strong season from Edwin could help him land a strong contract this fall and go a long way to quieting the ‘regression’ theorists…at least for a little while.
At 33 yrs old, perhaps, Edwin could be looking at a contract along the lines of another slugger who was relegated to DH duties- David Ortiz. That is not to say that dollar amounts will be identical (Fangraphs puts the dollar amount per WAR at ~$7.85M. Thus far in 2016, EE has been worth $15.7M while being paid just $10M), but the framework of the deal was based heavily on team options, etc. Basically, it was the kind of deal that allows a team to somewhat safeguard against age and regression. If the player produces, options are picked up. Like Ortiz, perhaps the hometown team is the most likely to offer this kind of deal. Again, the value is greater in your own backyard.
It is not clear just how Edwin’s free agency experience will play out. He could use his current production to sign an extension before the season ends. That is unlikely. He could use his production, and the team’s lack thereof, to ask for a trade, which is more unlikely. The only benefit there is that it removes the compensatory pick that comes with the qualifying offer. Or, more likely, he could play out the season, blow past the projections and use that to garner himself a nice little payday. Whether that is with Toronto or another club remains to be seen. What is for sure is that Edwin Encarnacion seems to be producing above expectations, which can only be to his benefit.
*Featured Image Credit: S Doyle- JFtC
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