The World Series may have ended Wednesday night, but baseball isn’t going away just yet. The New York Yankees made the first significant move of the offseason Thursday, declining a $20 million option on designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion.
The move was expected, as Encarnacion was acquired by the team to cover for injuries in 2019. The Yankees have plenty of candidates to fill Encarnacion’s role, and would be better served spending that $20 million on starting pitching.
Like many Yankees players, the 36-year-old Encarnacion missed time with injuries in 2019. In 109 games, he hit .244/.344/.531. While Encarnacion is getting up there in age, he still displayed massive power, popping 34 home runs.
That performance proved Encarnacion still has something left in the tank, but there hasn’t been a robust market for aging designated hitters in recent winters. J.D. Martinez got paid, but he was significantly younger and more productive when he signed his deal in 2018. Most players with Encarnacion’s skill set have had a hard time finding work. After leading the majors in home runs in 2016, Chris Carter struggled to get a job in 2017.
Encarnacion shouldn’t fall into the same situation as Carter. While Encarnacion has seen his performance slip in recent years, he still provides power and excellent plate discipline. Encarnacion also has a much longer track record to lean on.
He won’t get a long deal, but Encarnacion can still be a useful short-term producer on an American League team that needs a solid hitter. Given his position and age, it could take months before teams start paying attention to Encarnacion, but he should continue making regular trips around the bases with his imaginary parrot next season.
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