In the summer of 2012, Edwin Encarnación was having a ridiculous, breakout season for the Blue Jays. He’d hit 42 home runs that year, post a .384 on-base percentage, and mash his way to a 150 wRC+ was in the top 10 in all of baseball. And he’d do so playing on a bargain of a contract that was essentially a hedge made by the Blue Jays at the time it was signed.
The deal was made in the winter that followed the 2010 season, when Edwin’s career was in a strange place. Back then he was still commonly called E5 — baseball shorthand for an error made by the third baseman, which at the time he still technically was (though he wouldn’t be for much longer). That summer he’d been designated for assignment by the Jays. He went unclaimed on waivers and was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. And though the Jays ultimately brought him back, he was placed on waivers again once the season was over. The Oakland A’s claimed him on November 12th, but then decided against tendering him a contract less than a month later.
It was in the last year of this contract when he truly figured everything out — when he began to finish his swing with two hands, and suddenly transformed from a decent hitter into one of the top sluggers in the game. And as their emerging star charged toward a big free agent payday, the Blue Jays made the decision not to let another other team reap the rewards. They understood the damage that might have been done to their offence had they let Edwin walk that winter and broken up the excellent one-two punch he’d made with José Bautista. Before he got too close to actually hitting the open market, they went out and did something about it. Over the All-Star break it was announced that they had signed him to a three year deal with an option for a fourth, which would end up being worth $37 million all told — a nice piece of business for all involved.
The parallels aren’t exact, but the Blue Jays are right now in a very similar position with their Opening Day starter, Marco Estrada.