Tag: Edwin Encarnacion

Edwin Encarnacion to Indians: Takeaways from DH’s Introductory Press Conference

The Cleveland Indians officially introduced prized free-agent signing Edwin Encarnacion on Thursday.

Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reported the sides finalized a three-year, $60 million contract after the former Toronto Blue Jays slugger passed a physical Wednesday. The deal also includes a fourth-year club option worth $25 million.

Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com highlighted the donning of the Tribe jersey for the first time:

Chris Antonetti, the Indians’ president of baseball operations, admitted the reigning American League champions weren’t sure they could make this type of offseason splash, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.

“At the start of the offseason, we didn’t think this was possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet noted Encarnacion called Cleveland a “perfect fit,” even though there’s a part of him that’s struggled with moving on from the Blue Jays.

Now that Encarnacion is a member of the Indians, Tom Withers of the Associated Press pointed out the star’s focus has shifted to one thing: capturing the championship that slipped through Cleveland’s grasp against the Chicago Cubs in last season’s Fall Classic.

“I believe in this team, and I believe we can win the World Series,” Encarnacion said.

OddsShark noted the oddsmakers agree the Indians are once again a serious threat to capture the American League pennant. They rank second behind only the Boston Red Sox in the current AL odds and third overall, with the defending champion Cubs the favorite to repeat as champions.

Encarnacion will carry a heavy burden if Cleveland is going to live up to those expectations. The Dominican Republic native has been one of the game’s best power hitters over the past five years. He’s hit at least 34 home runs every year during that stretch, including 42 homers last season for Toronto.

The 33-year-old marquee addition will probably split time between first base and designated hitter with Carlos Santana. They’ll combine with Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez to form a terrific top six in the order if Brantley can stay healthy after missing most of 2016.   


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Edwin Encarnacion to Indians: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Over the last five years, Edwin Encarnacion has hit 193 home runs while emerging as one of MLB‘s most reliable power bats. The Cleveland Indians will hope he’ll continue that pace for at least another three years. 

Encarnacion agreed to a three-year deal with a club option for a fourth, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan confirmed the news and added the deal is worth $65 million total, including a $5 million buyout on the club option. 

According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the deal could reach $80 million if the fourth-year option is exercised.

USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale noted that nabbing Encarnacion should keep the Indians in the American League pennant race: 

Encarnacion spent the past seven-plus seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in a 2009 deal.

Inconsistent and somewhat maligned during his time in Cincinnati, Encarnacion emerged as a star north of the border. He has made three of the last four American League All-Star teams, belted no fewer than 34 home runs in any of the last five seasons and tied with David Ortiz for the AL lead in RBI (127) in 2016.

“There have been a lot of ups and down in the last six years in my career here with Toronto,” Encarnacion said, per John Lott of Blue Jays Nation. “But it’s more good things that happened to me than bad things happened. So I feel good, the way I’ve been for this organization, and I feel very proud.”

Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have anchored the middle of a Blue Jays lineup that’s reached the postseason each of the last two years. Most expected Toronto to attempt to bring Encarnacion back, but even he seemed resigned to his tenure ending late in 2016.

“You feel sad because I want to be here, but it’s not my decision,” Encarnacion said. “Now we have to wait and see what’s going to happen.”

While it’s always risky to lock in a player approaching his 34th birthday on a long-term deal, Encarnacion showed no signs of slowing in 2016. He matched a career high with 42 home runs, producing a .263/.357/.529 slash line. His peripherals were slightly down from last season, but Encarnacion played in 160 games for the first time in his career. 

What’s more, the Blue Jays also showed more of an interest in getting him out into the field. Encarnacion nearly split his first base and designated hitting duties down the middle, which could provide Cleveland with a blueprint. He’s still a mostly dreadful fielder—Encarnacion has produced a positive defensive rating just once in his career—but getting him to border on passable would help. 

With the Indians, Encarnacion will look to bolster the reigning AL champs’ offerings at the plate one year after they pined for some extra power. 

Cleveland ranked 10th out of 15 AL teams in total home runs, and that mark stands to improve quite a bit if Encarnacion can replicate the success he experienced in Toronto. 

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Fact or Fiction on All of Week 8’s Hottest MLB Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

Normally, the week before Christmas is a busy time in baseball, with teams looking to finish up deals with free agents and complete trades before the game goes on an unofficial hiatus until we ring in the new year.

That hasn’t been the case in 2016, leaving us with a rumor mill that’s bursting at the seams with speculation about the immediate futures of some big names. 

Will two of those big names wind up with teams in smaller markets, moves that would obliterate the notion that small-market clubs can’t contend with the “big boys” in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York? Has an injury limited the market for one of the better pitchers left unsigned?

We’ll hit on all that and more in this week’s edition of Fact or Fiction.

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Edwin Encarnacion Signing Propels Indians Toward Another World Series in 2017

The Cleveland Indians left the rest of the American League in their dust in the 2016 MLB playoffs. After winning 94 games in the regular season, they won seven of eight games en route to a near miss in the World Series.      

But a couple of AL clubs have made key additions since then, so clearly the only thing the Indians could do in response is sign the best free agent remaining on the market.

OK, maybe it’s not the only thing they could have done. But after weeks of will-they-or-won’t-they rumors and speculation, the Indians finally went ahead and signed Edwin Encarnacion on Thursday. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the veteran slugger is joining up on a three-year contract:

Cleveland can consider this a discount. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, Encarnacion once had an $80 million offer on the table to return to the Toronto Blue Jays. He was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to sign for even more at $92 million.

The fact that Encarnacion is settling for a $65 million deal might tell us that he overplayed his hand on this winter’s market by rejecting Toronto’s $80 million offer. It certainly didn’t help his case that he was sharing space with a collection of similarly one-dimensional sluggers.

But more to the point, it tells us that Cleveland could see what the rest of us could see: It had an opening for a right-handed slugger who could fit at first base and designated hitter.

That was Mike Napoli’s job in 2016, and he did it splendidly by posting an .800 OPS and tying Carlos Santana for the team lead with 34 home runs. But now he’s a free agent. And while Napoli would have come cheaper than Encarnacion, the extra money spent Thursday has bought a significant upgrade.

This isn’t a scorching take, is it? Nah, I don’t think so.

Encarnacion has hit 193 home runs since 2012, 77 more than Napoli and only four fewer than league leader Chris Davis. By adjusted OPS+, Encarnacion has also been one of the AL’s five best hitters over the last five seasons:

  1. Mike Trout: 173
  2. Miguel Cabrera: 166
  3. David Ortiz: 154
  4. Edwin Encarnacion: 146
  5. Jose Abreu: 143

Beyond Encarnacion’s ties to draft-pick compensation and his limited skill set, his red flags are his age (34 in January) and his escalating strikeout rate.

But as long as he’s only being weighed against the incumbent Napoli, neither thing is a big concern for Cleveland. Encarnacion is a year younger, and he won’t be anything close to the strikeout black hole Napoli was.

Now, if anyone wants to get technical, the Indians didn’t really need an upgrade as substantial as Encarnacion.

That would imply that they didn’t already have an easy road to a playoff spot in 2017. They did. They’re part of an MLB landscape that, as Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs highlighted, might not feature any division races. They were projected for 89 wins before signing Encarnacion, six more than the next best projection in the AL Central. 

However, Cleveland’s unfinished business for 2017 isn’t winning the division. It’s winning the World Series. 

Two AL teams figured to make that tough. The Boston Red Sox began the winter as a good team and got better after adding Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg. The Houston Astros also began the winter as a good team and got better with Josh Reddick, Brian McCann and Charlie Morton. Both the Red Sox (93 wins) and the Astros (90 wins) were projected to win more games than Cleveland.

That’s changed. Encarnacion’s signing has boosted the Indians’ projection to 92 wins. They’re right there with the Red Sox and Astros on paper, and even that undersells their World Series aspirations.

This is a team that just won a division title without virtually any help from star outfielder Michael Brantley and only half a season of Andrew Miller’s dominance out of the bullpen. They also won a pennant without any help from Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in the postseason.

They’ll all be back in 2017, and it’s certainly worth noting that guys like Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Corey Kluber and Cody Allen haven’t gone anywhere. Neither has Terry Francona, who just won his second Manager of the Year award in four seasons in Cleveland.

Signing Encarnacion was really the only big move the Indians needed to make. He obviously helps them on a macro level. On a micro level, he could be a weapon against Boston’s ace lefties (Sale and David Price) and a terror at the bandbox that is Minute Maid Park in any potential postseason matchups.

The catch, such as it is, is that he’s costing the Indians more money than they’ve ever spent on a free agent. He’s also costing them the No. 25 pick in the 2017 draft. This is a heavy price for the normally thrifty Indians to pay.

But if ever there were time for them to do so, it’s right now.

For one thing, the club’s financials are in better shape than they have been in some time. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, executives estimate their trip to the World Series was worth “tens of millions” of extra dollars. Rosenthal also noted Cleveland “almost certainly” benefited from welcoming Kansas City entrepreneur John Sherman as a minority ownership partner. 

As for the lost draft pick, some consolation there is that No. 25 is a relatively low pick. Further consolation is that now is not the time for Cleveland to worry about stockpiling young talent.

Their goal is to win it all right now. They had enough to do that before signing Encarnacion. Now they have everything they need.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. 

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Edwin Encarnacion Can Still Swing Fortunes for MLB Contenders This Winter

The stories this week about Edwin Encarnacion were mostly about how much money he wasn’t going to get. And maybe he won’t.       

Encarnacion’s market “cratered,” to use the word Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports worked into a tweet Wednesday. And maybe it did.

But unless you’re Encarnacion’s agent or banker or a family member, none of that should be a big concern. We can analyze later, when the final numbers are in, whether Encarnacion and his advisers badly misread the market when they turned down four years and $80 million from the Toronto Blue Jays, as Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported.

Right now, Encarnacion represents something else. He represents opportunity for the many American League teams trying to deal with the loaded Boston Red Sox and for the National League teams still trying to catch up with the Chicago Cubs.

He represents a potential game-changer, because consistent run producers like him aren’t supposed to sit there on the market waiting forever for teams to realize how much they need them. The market this winter has been overloaded with players who can fill an Encarnacion-like role (Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Jay Bruce, etc.), but there’s only one guy out there who has driven in 97-plus runs each of the last five seasons.

Encarnacion is the guy, and even if you’re down on the value of RBI as a stat, it’s hard not to value what Encarnacion has done. Baseball-Reference.com’s offensive WAR credits him with 22.8 wins over those same five years, 11th in the major leagues and tops among all players who have moved or are likely to move this winter (assuming the Pittsburgh Pirates are now serious about keeping Andrew McCutchen).

So maybe Encarnacion really is an “unlikely” option for the Texas Rangers, as general manager Jon Daniels suggested to reporters, including T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Maybe it really would take “a multimillion dollar miracle” to send Encarnacion back to the Blue Jays, as Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun wrote after listening to Jays general manager Ross Atkins.

“If there’s a way, I don’t see it,” Atkins said.

Some team is going to find a way—that’s for certain. And none of us should be surprised if the team that eventually finds a way ends up playing well into October next year.

The Cleveland Indians seem to understand that, given their reported interest in Encarnacion this week, as Paul Hoynes wrote for Cleveland.com. The Indians have never been among baseball’s big spenders, but when they took advantage of a soft market to sign Mike Napoli for $7 million last winter, they were rewarded with a big season and ultimately a trip to the World Series.

Napoli is a free agent again. Given how much the Indians like him, he could well return. But Encarnacion is a clear step up, and an Indians team that painfully lost the World Series has every reason to look for upgrades.

The same goes for the St. Louis Cardinals. They don’t have the long championship drought the Indians do, but their first playoff-less October since 2010 had to be made more painful by watching the rival Cubs celebrate.

The Cardinals reacted Friday by signing Dexter Fowler, one of the Cubs’ stars. The Cubs were unbothered enough by that news to thank Fowler on Twitter (before going back to plugging their trophy tour):

The reaction from Chicago might not be as positive if the Cardinals follow up by signing Encarnacion, which Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested as a possibility. Fowler gives the Cards a needed spark atop the lineup, but Encarnacion would give them the type of muscle that could actually threaten the Cubs’ intended dynasty.

Then there are the teams that called an Encarnacion signing “unlikely” or said they “don’t see” a way.

As Tim Cowlishaw wrote in the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers haven’t yet made up for the offense they lost when Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland all departed. As Richard Griffin wrote in the Toronto Star, the Blue Jays don’t have a real replacement for Encarnacion or Jose Bautista.

If the Encarnacion market really is cratering, Griffin wrote, “the Jays should do everything in their power to make it happen.”

After all, when this winter began, plenty of us saw Edwin Encarnacion as a potential difference-maker. No matter what may have changed about his market, nothing has changed about the impact he could make on whichever team lands him.        


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Edwin Encarnacion Is Ideal Red Sox Replacement for David Ortiz

Surely, Boston Red Sox fans can’t believe David Ortiz is retiring. We understand. Your great-aunt who couldn’t tell a Carl Yastrzemski from a hole in the ground understands.

But Big Papi is indeed hanging ’em up.

The question now is, who can replace him?

The answer may be Edwin Encarnacion.

Granted, no one will ever truly replace Ortiz. The 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion will forever be a part of Red Sox lore. He was there when the Curse of the Bambino was lifted and for all the salad days that followed. He’ll never need to buy another meal in Massachusetts. 

He also hit 38 home runs, tallied 127 RBI and paced MLB with a 1.021 OPS in his farewell season. Clearly, Ortiz is rolling off the race track with gas sloshing in his tank.

On Thursday, Boston exercised its $17.2 million option on Ortiz for 2017 “as a formality,” per the team’s official Twitter feed.

That leaves the door cracked on an eleventh-hour change of heart, with Ortiz busting out of the phone booth in full Superman regalia to redeem Boston’s unceremonious division-series exit.

Back in reality, the defending American League East champion Red Sox will have to move on without their designated hitter, lineup anchor and franchise icon.

Which brings us back to Encarnacion, Ortiz’s friend and compatriot.

The 33-year-old Dominican posted a .263/.357/.529 slash line with 42 home runs last season for the Toronto Blue Jays while tying Ortiz for the AL lead with 127 RBI. He’s surpassed 30 homers in each of the last five campaigns and 100 RBI in four of them.

He delivered some huge moments in the postseason, including a Joe Carter-esque walk-off bomb in the AL Wild Card Game.

He’s also one of a precious few impact bats available in a weak free-agent class

That means demand for his services will be high. Considering his age and defensive limitationshowever, his most serious suitors will be American League clubs in need of a DH.

That could include everyone from the Jays to the Baltimore Orioles to the Houston Astros to the Texas Rangers

If you’re looking for an ideal landing spot for Encarnacion, however, you couldn’t do much better than Beantown.

“The Red Sox know that they need to reinforce the middle of the lineup,” Ortiz said during a July 12 news conference, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. “And sorry, Blue Jays, but who better than Encarnacion to do that?”

MLB investigated and absolved Ortiz for tampering, per Crasnick. The fit is simply too obvious. It’s like noting the sky is blue or that Bill Simmons is fond of Boston sports teams.

Encarnacion spent the first four-plus years of his career with the Cincinnati Reds before a 2009 trade to Toronto. 

He’s made himself exceedingly comfortable in the AL East. Other than the Reds’ Great American Ball Park and Blue Jays’ Rogers Centre, the stadiums in which Encarnacion has hit the most home runs are: Oriole Park at Camden Yards (16), Yankee Stadium (15) and Fenway Park (14).

The prospect of the right-handed swinging Encarnacion taking aim at the Green Monster and feasting in other AL East yards should leave Sox fans salivating.

“I think maybe the Green Monster helps,” Encarnacion said, per Christopher Smith of MassLive.com. “We are pull hitters. And we have that wall right there. I see the ball good here in this stadium. I love every time I come to play here.”

The Red Sox have an enviable farm system. They’re the division champs. They’ve got AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts at the forefront of a burgeoning lineup that led MLB in runs scored and OPS.

They don’t need Encarnacion. The riches they’d surrender to secure his services could squeeze the budget down the road, particularly on the back end of a long-term deal—unless he discovers Ortiz’s fountain of youth.

The Jays are expected to extend Encarnacion the qualifying offer, per Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, meaning he’d cost a draft pick.

The Red Sox, however, can handle it. They’ve got the budget and the minor league depth.

There are other free-agent options, including Mark Trumbo, who hit 47 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles last season, and Encarnacion’s Blue Jays teammate, Jose Bautista. 

Then there’s Pablo Sandoval—remember him?—who is working his way back from shoulder surgery and could be in the mix at DH with Brock Holt, Travis Shaw and Yoan Moncada all possibilities at third base, per the Associated Press (h/t the Boston Herald).

The Red Sox can’t count on the prayer of a slimmed-down Kung Fu Panda, though. This team wants to win now and win later, and Encarnacion would help accomplish the former without precluding the latter.

“I do think that they will go very hard after Encarnacion,” CSNNE’s Sean McAdam said on The Baseball Show (h/t Matt Dolloff of CBS Boston). “That seems to be the guy they think is closest to providing near the production that Ortiz has given them in recent years.”

No one will ever replace Ortiz. That much is certain.

If the Sox are searching for the best facsimile, however, Encarnacion is probably their guy.


All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Edwin Encarnacion Contract: Latest News, Rumors on DH’s Talks with Blue Jays

Edwin Encarnacion has been a key member of the Toronto Blue Jays for the last seven-and-a-half seasons, but with the 33-year-old in the final year of his deal, he could be playing elsewhere in 2017.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Blue Jays’ Plans for Encarnacion Extension

Monday, Oct. 24

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins made it clear Monday that Toronto will make a strong effort to re-sign Encarnacion, telling reporters that retaining him and fellow slugger Jose Bautista is a priority, per TSN’s Scott MacArthur.

At the very least, the Blue Jays will extend Encarnacion a qualifying offer, according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Oct. 13 that the qualifying offer will be worth $17.2 million this offseason. Encarnacion would be a near-certainty to turn it down. Since he’s one of the best hitters available, he’ll be in a position to command much more on the open market.

The three-time All-Star said last Wednesday that the Blue Jays are his preferred destination:

It will be interesting, though, to see how team president Mark Shapiro chooses to handle both Bautista and Encarnacion.

During his days with the Cleveland Indians, Shapiro often shied away from signing aging veterans to pricey extensions, opting instead to invest in his younger players.

Last October, TSN’s Rick Westhead also reported Shapiro questioned Alex Anthopoulos’ decision to trade the Blue Jays’ best prospects in order to acquire David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. Anthopoulos ultimately decided against signing an extension with Toronto last year.

Encarnacion has been consistent the last five years—averaging just over 38 home runs and 110 runs batted in per season. At his age, though, the first baseman/designated hitter will soon begin to decline.

Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols are both cautionary tales for why it’s risky to pay significantly for sluggers who are into their 30s, no matter how impressive their track records are.

If Shapiro’s focus is on the long term, he and Atkins—who came over from the Indians as well—may have a definite ceiling for what they’re willing to offer Encarnacion.

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Edwin Encarnacion Asks Court to Dismiss STD Lawsuit: Latest Details and Comments

Attorneys for Edwin Encarnacion filed a motion in a New York court Tuesday to have a lawsuit against the Toronto Blue Jays first baseman dismissed due to a lack of evidence as well as questions regarding the jurisdiction of the case. 

Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star provided details of the filing Wednesday, which is in response to a suit filed by Ashley Lebron, an Encarnacion family friend, who said the MLB player knowingly infected her with genital herpes and chlamydia during a pair of sexual encounters in February.

“The complaint is devoid of a single fact supporting her conclusory allegations that the defendant knew or should have known that he had herpes and/or chlamydia,” the motion filed by Encarnacion’s lawyers stated.

Encarnacion doesn’t deny the pair had sex in February in his native Dominican Republic, where his lawyers argue any legal action would need to take place, but the motion also noted the details “do not even remotely suggest anything other than consensual sex between two sexually active adults.”

The Toronto Star added Lebron is seeking $11.5 million in damages for “past and future medical care as well as mental anguish and emotional and physical suffering.”

TMZ Sports passed along more information about the initial lawsuit in August. Lebron stated in her court filing that Encarnacion told her he was clean and responded to her questions by suggesting “she may have picked up [the STDs] when they went four-wheeling and she swam in the river.”

She also alleged the Blue Jays star later backed off his comments about being clean before ending all contact with her, according to TMZ Sports.

No timeline was provided for when a judge will rule on the request for dismissal in the case.

If the lawsuit is allowed to move forward, Sam Pazzano of the Toronto Sun reported the civil trial could occur by 2018, if not earlier, based on remarks from Lebron’s lawyer, Robert Hiltzik.

Encarnacion and the Blue Jays are currently playing in the American League Championship Series. They trail the Cleveland Indians 3-1 with Game 5 scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

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2017 MLB Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions for Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, More

Even with the MLB playoffs ongoing, many MLB fans are beginning to look ahead to the offseason and speculate where the biggest stars might land.

Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and Edwin Encarnacion are three of the most talented players available. They’re all still playing in the postseason, but that hasn’t stopped a flurry of rumors regarding their respective futures.

Below are updates on Turner, Jansen and Encarnacion‘s impending free agency.


Justin Turner

Turner had the best regular season of his career in 2016. Even at 31 years old, he’s poised to receive a hefty contract when he enters free agency in the offseason.

Rather than being excited about his future payday, Turner said in September he’ll be happier when it’s over, according to the Orange County Register‘s Bill Plunkett:

I guess everyone’s cut from a different cloth. I personally don’t look forward to it. Obviously, I’ll be excited when it’s over with. But that whole process is the part of baseball I could do without. The process of playing the game, the preparation of getting ready for the games—that’s what I love about it. The process of the off-the-field stuff is not very fun.

In the same interview, Turner confirmed he had had preliminary contract talks with the Dodgers but didn’t make any long-term commitment to Los Angeles: “There’s been some dialogue back and forth, but it didn’t go anywhere. I was open to it to see what they had to say. I let my agent do most of it. I’m not trying to worry too much about it.”

On Sunday, Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported the signs point to Turner hitting the open market.

For the right price, re-signing Turner makes sense for the Dodgers. He tied for the team lead in home runs (27) and runs batted in (90). According to FanGraphs, he also finished sixth among qualified third basemen in defensive runs saved (seven) and first in ultimate zone rating per 150 games (17.2).

Los Angeles will have to think long and hard about for how much and how long it’s willing to commit to Turner, though. His performance shouldn’t drastically decline in 2017, but he’s unlikely to improve significantly over the next few years.

The Dodgers weren’t willing to match the Arizona Diamondbacks’ contract for Zack Greinke, and it looks like they dodged a major bullet. Although bidding for Turner won’t reach Greinke-like levels, it’s easy to see Los Angeles opting against re-signing him if he’s receiving significant offers elsewhere.

In terms of his next possible destination, this could be a chance for the Atlanta Braves to make a statement, similar to when the perennially mediocre Washington Nationals inked a 31-year-old Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal.

The Braves are moving into SunTrust Park next year, so it’s important for the team to show fans that it’s taking steps in the right direction. Another 60-win season will quickly blunt the excitement of the new ballpark.

Signing Turner wouldn’t make the Braves a contender overnight, but he’d be a massive upgrade at third over Adonis Garcia. His arrival would also be a sign from ownership that it’s willing to spend what’s necessary to turn Atlanta around.

Prediction: Turner signs with Braves.


Kenley Jansen

Ever since Guggenheim Baseball Management took ownership of the Dodgers from Frank McCourt in 2012, the group has spared no expense to bring a World Series to Los Angeles.

Here’s a look at where the team’s total payroll ranked each year from 2013 to 2016, per Spotrac:

According to Heyman, though, the Dodgers may be looking to trim their spending slightly in the years to come, which could mean allowing free agents such as Turner, Jansen, Josh Reddick and Rich Hill to walk in free agency:

Anyway, it’s reasonable to think that the Dodgers, with their emphasis on youth, their collection of top prospects and their consideration to be below the threshold in the future, could be outbid for one or more of their top free agents. One rival official who has some familiarity with their inner workings predicted they could wind up re-signing none of them, though in a later conversation seemed to amend that, saying, ‘I don’t know who’s going to close if they don’t keep Kenley.’

Between the regular season he had and postseason he’s having, failing to re-sign Jansen would be a mistake for the Dodgers.

Beyond his 47 saves, Jansen averaged 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a 1.83 earned-run average. His 1.44 FIP was second-lowest among qualified relievers behind Aroldis Chapman, per FanGraphs.

The 29-year-old melted down in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, which was a non-save situation. In his 15.2 innings outside that appearance, he has allowed zero runs in the 2016 playoffs.

Of course, the importance of an elite closer can be overstated at times. It’s also fair to question how much longer Jansen can continue pitching like he has this season. Craig Kimbrel’s last few seasons are evidence as to how quickly things can take a turn for the worse for a top-end closer.

With that said, the Dodgers will be a World Series contender again in 2017, even if they plan on relying on some of their talented prospects. As such, Los Angeles will need to have somebody upon whom it can rely in the ninth inning.

Failing to re-sign Jansen would force the Dodgers to find a replacement who in all likelihood would be a major downgrade.

Unless another team comes in with a crazy offer for the 2016 All-Star, Los Angeles should do everything it can to ensure he remains with the team for the long term.

Prediction: Jansen re-signs with Dodgers.


Edwin Encarnacion

This will be an interesting offseason for the Toronto Blue Jays. Both Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are free agents. The former is 33 and the latter is 35.

In June, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported Toronto doesn’t plan on re-signing either player to long-term deals in the offseason.

If the past is any indication, both sluggers will be playing elsewhere in 2017.

During his time with the Cleveland Indians, Blue Jays team president Mark Shapiro routinely traded or declined to re-sign the team’s priciest veterans. According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, Shapiro was upset then-general manager Alex Anthopoulos offloaded so many top prospects in trades to acquire David Price and Troy Tulowitzki.

While Shapiro is unlikely to want a complete rebuild in Toronto, he may instruct general manager Ross Atkins—another Indians transplant—against spending extravagantly on two hitters in their mid-30s.

Should Encarnacion hit the open market, he may not have to change divisions. The Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo reported on Oct. 8 the Boston Red Sox could make a push to sign the first baseman/designated hitter.

On Saturday, Cafardo pictured a future in which Boston used Encarnacion to supplement Hanley Ramirez:

When [president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski] said at his postmortem press conference last week that [Ramirez] could play both first base and DH, that’s probably because [Encarnacion] can do the same. You could have this pair alternate between DH and first base. Encarnacion likes to play the field. Like Ramirez, he’s a below-average first baseman but serviceable. The important thing is both are powerful righthanded bats, especially at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox couldn’t find a better replacement—at least in the short term—for the retiring David Ortiz. Over the last five years, Encarnacion has averaged a little over 38 home runs and 110 RBI a season. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he’s also a .286 hitter with 14 homers and 41 RBI in 50 games at Fenway Park.

Dave Dombrowski has rarely shied away from making major moves to help his teams in the present, which is how he turned the Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers into World Series contenders. Last offseason, he signed off on committing $217 million to David Price.

Should the Blue Jays turn down the chance to bring Encarnacion back, the Red Sox will likely be first in line to sign him.

Prediction: Encarnacion signs with Red Sox.

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2017 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Jose Bautista and More

The MLB postseason is quickly approaching, but many teams around the league already have their sights set on the offseason and potential improvements before the 2017 campaign.

After all, the World Series dreams have been extinguished for plenty of squads, leaving them with no choice but to focus on the long-term future. What’s more, even the contenders need to pay attention to the upcoming offseason if they hope to remain in favorable position beyond just this year. 

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the latest rumors from around the league and predictions for where some impending free agents will land before the 2017 season.


Blue Jays Sluggers Set to Hit the Open Market

As of Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays were tied for fifth in all of baseball in total runs scored, per ESPN.com. However, they may lose two key players in their powerful lineup this offseason.

According to Jeff Blair of Sportsnet, Edwin Encarnacion “is going to have a larger market than some expect because there are at least a couple of National League teams who view him as an everyday first baseman.”

Blair also discussed free-agent-to-be Jose Bautista, although he allowed that “more teams think Encarnacion can play first base everyday than think Bautista can still be an effective right fielder.”

Blair pointed out whether Encarnacion even wants to play first base full time will impact his free-agency decisions. Blair predicted the Houston Astros would pursue the slugger and noted “the fact Texas has no state income tax will help them since Encarnacion will want to keep as much as possible from what is likely his first and last big payday.”

Encarnacion will be 34 years old next season and does have experience in the National League from his time on the Cincinnati Reds (2005-09). However, he was a younger player at the time, and staying in the American League would give him the opportunity to prolong his career and continue mashing home runs as a designated hitter.

He can use the National League interest as leverage when negotiating with an Astros team that can use the absence of a state income tax as a selling point.

What’s more, Minute Maid Park in Houston has an inviting short porch in left field. According to MLB.com, the left field wall is just 315 feet away, which is likely enticing to Encarnacion considering he has at least 34 home runs in each of the last five seasons. He’s already surpassed 40 in 2016, which marks the second time he’s done so in that five-year span.

As for Bautista, he will be 36 years old next season and apparently won’t have the same market pull as Encarnacion to use as leverage.

That’s not to say a power hitter who drilled 40 home runs last year won’t generate interest on the open market, but his numbers have declined this year. As of Tuesday, he had 21 home runs and 67 RBI after drilling 40 and 114 last year, respectively. He also sported a .238 batting average, which would be his lowest mark since 2009.

The Blue Jays will lose Encarnacion this offseason and won’t want to watch another face of their franchise leave in Bautista. They will take advantage of the lesser market and keep the powerful slugger in their lineup next year with some of the money they could have used on Encarnacion

Prediction: Encarnacion heads to Houston; Bautista stays put in Toronto.


Lourdes Gurriel Attracting Attention from Notable Contenders

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball noted Cuban prospect Lourdes Gurriel already had “a successful open showcase” and will have private workouts with the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and Miami Marlins, among others.

Heyman described Gurriel as a “shortstop by trade” but someone who is versatile enough to play at third base or the outfield. Considering he is 6’4”, he could move from shortstop to another position by the time he reaches the major league level.

Gurriel is No. 6 on MLB.com’s international prospects list, which said he is “a good runner with a good glove” and “athletic enough to play infield or outfield, which is part of his appeal to scouts.”

The prospect slashed .277/.362/.426 with 27 home runs and 23 stolen bases during six seasons in Cuba, per Heyman.

Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors pointed out Gurriel is subject to international bonus pools for the time being, but that will no longer be the case on Oct. 19 when he turns 23 years old.

“At that point, he’ll be free to sign with any MLB club for any amount, so the Red Sox will have a shot at him even though they’re currently restricted in their signings of players that are subject to international bonus restrictions,” Adams wrote.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported in July that MLB banned Boston from signing international players for a year because it “circumvented signing-bonus rules.”

The fact Gurriel won’t be subject to the restrictions is key here, especially since the Red Sox will look to take advantage of their limited opportunity to make an impact on the international market this offseason. They will jump at the chance to do so with Gurriel and make him one of their primary acquisitions before the 2017 campaign.

Prediction: Red Sox sign Gurriel.

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