The free agent market got a little bit more interesting a few days before Christmas as one big name slugger came off the board. Edwin Encarnacion, most recently of the Blue Jays, has agreed on a three year contract with the Cleveland Indians with $60-65 million in guaranteed money. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was the first to report on the signing.
Encarnacion signing is of immediate interest to the Orioles because of their own peculiar pursuit of Mark Trumbo. If Encarnacion, who is admittedly three years older than Trumbo but has a much stronger track record, had to settle for three years with an option for a fourth year, what does that mean for the O’s and Trumbo? That will be worth keeping an eye on.
The reported contract for Encarnacion, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, is $60 million over three years with a $5 million buyout of the fourth year option. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports it’s a $60 million guarantee, counting the option, with a $25 million salary in the fourth year if it’s picked up.
Either way, if we’re generous and assume that option is ultimately picked up, Encarnacion would then have gotten four years and $80 million... which is exactly what Trumbo was said to have asked of the Orioles earlier in the offseason.
You never know exactly what will happen when teams start bidding against one another, but this Encarnacion contract sure seems like a sign that every other free agent slugger, including and perhaps especially the draft pick-attached Trumbo, is going to need to adjust his own expectations downward.
I won’t be sad to see Encarnacion out of the AL East. Toronto gets weaker. The specific player who dealt the 2016 Orioles their deathblow in the wild card game is gone.
Encarnacion is the #2 player behind Chris Davis for home runs hit in the past five seasons. In that time, he has batted .272/.367/.544. That’s an amazing five year run. And he’s out of the Jays lineup now. Sure, he joins the American League champion Indians, who at least on paper seem to be favorites to waltz back on top of their own division, but hey, that’s not the Orioles’ problem unless they make it into the postseason.
Cleveland will give up their first round draft pick to sign Encarnacion. That means that the pick the Orioles will receive if Trumbo signs elsewhere, assuming they actually let him sign elsewhere, moves up a spot, to #28 overall. The Orioles would then have their own #21 selection in addition to #28. That’s two chances they really need to find a player with future value to the franchise.
Did I mention there will be far fewer opportunities a year to have to see the dang invisible parrot? I won’t be sad to see less of that either.