Thursday, December 16, 2010

Encarnacion's Strange Trip Home

Edwin Encarnacion doubled his career transaction total in just two months. And the sum total of those strange trips through the transaction wire is a return ticket home to Toronto for almost half the money he made last year.

First, he was put on waivers by the Blue Jays after a semi-productive year for the Toronto team in 2010. The Oakland Athletics picked him up off of waivers on November 12. The A's then non-tendered him and he became a free agent on December 2. Exactly two weeks later, the Blue Jays signed him and brought him back to the ball club. That's quite a road trip.

Encarnacio, who made $5,170,000 last year as the Blue Jays' semi-regular third baseman dashed off 21 homers in 2010, a goodly sum in 332 at bats and added to the Blue Jays' record breaking team home run total. He seemed to fit right into the Blue Jays all or nothing style. He hit for a low average (.244) and a low On Base Percentage (.305) but his power numbers brought his OPS up to .787, good for a 111 OPS+, a figure that is considered well above average.

But he's barely an adequate third baseman and B-R rated him there with a negative figure of -0.2. That's not terrrible in the grand scheme of things and better than some of his results from years past. Fangraphs rates his defense lower, but his WAR at about the same as B-R. All told, according to Fangraphs, he was worth $7.3 million last year, meaning the Blue Jays got a bargain.

Now that Encarnacion is going to make half of that in 2011, he could be a semi-steal. But you get the sense that the Blue Jays aren't really sold on Encanacion as their third baseman and if they had their druthers, they would put someone else over there. We'll have to see what they end up doing with him and the position. The guess here is that he will get as much playing time as last year.

As for Encarnacion, he'll have to make do with less money and continue his career with the team he is intimately familiar with. Again, this is just a guess, but his market must have been bleak to settle on a contract that is a little more than half of what he made last year and less than 30% of his value as a player. But, that's the way it goes on the fringe and two and a half million is still a nice chunk of change to do something as wonderful as playing baseball at the sport's highest level.

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