Welcome to Blue Jays Nation’s Season In Review. Instead of doing boring-ass, standard player-by-player reviews or handing out some arbitrary report cards, I’m going to talk about 20 things that are on my mind heading into 2020. Today, we have the possibility of a welcomed return.
Edwin homering off of Estrada. pic.twitter.com/XubGPDOdU7
— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) July 21, 2017
This is something we’ve all thought about this year. With Edwin Encarnacion set to hit free agency this winter (assuming the Yankees don’t pick up his option), there’s a legitimate chance of a reunion between the veteran slugger and the organization he spent 999 games with over the course of eight seasons.
One of the most maligned decisions made by the Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins front office was the decision to let Edwin walk after the 2016 season. The whole thing was a mess. They offered Edwin a contract worth $80 million over four years, he declined, stating his interest to explore other options, the team went out and quickly inked Kendrys Morales to a value contract, and Edwin ended up signing for less in Cleveland.
It appeared as though there was never a genuine desire from the front office to bring Edwin back given the fact him leaving would result in the team getting a compensatory draft pick. While that pick ended up netting the organization their top pitching prospect, Nate Pearson, losing a franchise icon immediately after his biggest moment as a Blue Jay was bothersome for fans.
Since leaving, Edwin has smacked 138 dingers while posting a solid .855 OPS between Cleveland, Seattle, and New York. In an injury-shortened season between the Mariners and Yankees, Edwin hit 34 homers and posted a .875 OPS, proving he can absolutely still be considered one of the game’s best sluggers.
Back in July, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet talked to Edwin about a possible return when the Blue Jays faced him in New York as a Yankee for the first time.
“When I left Toronto, I loved Toronto. I love that place. I’ve got great memories in that place, but it’s something I can’t control. Right now, I’ve got that option. I don’t know what’s going to happen, we’re going to wait and see.”
This kind of addition would be much similar to the one the Twins made last winter when they signed Nelson Cruz to a low-risk, one-year deal worth $14 million with a team option for a second season. The 39-year-old Cruz was one of the Twins’ most valuable players last season, hitting 41 homers and producing a 1.031 OPS. Getting Edwin’s 2019 production on a short-term deal would be a massive boost for the Jays offensively.
It just seems so obvious. The Blue Jays lack veterans on their roster, the fans know Edwin, they like him, he liked it here, and putting his bat in the middle of the lineup would instantly make Toronto’s offence much more potent. I’m sure Vlad Jr. would be thrilled to have a fellow countryman with a huge bat protecting him in the middle of the lineup.
But it isn’t that simple. A key reason why the Jays moved on from Kendrys Morales at the beginning of the 2019 season was opening up the designated hitter slot. I mean, part of it also had to do with him being, uh, not that good, but the Jays also wanted need to have an open DH slot in order to move players around the field and keep everyone in the mix.
If Edwin was going to make a return, he would have to be playing first base rather than slotting in as the team’s permanent DH. There’s also an issue with that. Beyond Edwin having a fairly mediocre glove at first, Ross Atkins has claimed it’s a priority for the team to find a first baseman who can also play other positions.
We already know that Vlad Jr. is going to see a fair amount of team as the designated hitter. He played 24 of his 123 games there last season and it’s hard to imagine him playing every day in the field. There’s also Teoscar Hernandez, who provides a lot of intrigue with his bat while simultaneously giving a lot of that value back with his poor play in the outfield. After a trip down to Triple-A, Hernandez came back up and was one of Toronto’s best hitters in the second half of the season. The plan might be to DH position might be split between him and Vlad, using Teoscar in the field only when Vlad gets a day off from third.
Still, if the thing holding the Jays back from signing Edwin is simply his lack of versatility at first base, this might be a case of the front office outsmarting itself.
Obviously, a big part of wanting Edwin back is familiarity and nostalgia, but adding a big, veteran bat to a young lineup would be incredibly beneficial. Edwin has cut down on his strikeouts the past couple of seasons and is capable of providing good at-bats in the middle of the lineup beyond just simply adding another element of power. This is the kind of addition that can help make the team better in the short-term without breaking the bank in the long-term.
At some point, you need to value having good players over mediocre ones who can play multiple positions.