As the MLB offseason quickly approaches, the New York Mets could potentially consider pursing slugger Edwin Encarnacion.
To say the New York Mets have several important decisions to make this offseason would be an understatement. Second base, Jay Bruce‘s team option, and Yoenis Cespedes‘s almost imminent free agency will stand as some of the largest question marks facing Sandy Alderson and company. However, the intricacies of the nearing offseason extend beyond the aforementioned concerns.
If Cespedes walks, the Mets will find themselves in dire need of a right handed power bat (sorry, David Wright can no longer be relied upon). Edwin Encarnacion is arguably the best bat on the free agent market (excluding Cespedes, of course). It’s not crazy to think that he could fill a hole in the Mets lineup. However, it also doesn’t mean inking the soon to be 34 year old would be prudent.
There’s no doubt that with or without Encarnacion, the Mets lineup would gain length and power. He’s belted at least 34 homers and driven in at least 98 in five consecutive years, including a league high 127 RBI’s this season. His lifetime .352 OBP is also something Sandy Alderson values. Though, the cons are outweighing the pros here.
Firstly, the soon to be former Blue Jay will command a contract of at least four years, maybe five. Victor Martinez, who at age 36 received a 4 year, $68 million dollar deal from the Tigers, will serve as leverage for Encarnacion’s camp to command a deal of at least four years. Signing an aging slugger is a high risk, high reward kind of move. If he produces Toronto-esque numbers en route to the Mets making another playoff run or two, the contract might be justified. However, Encarnacion will likely be earning in the neighborhood of $20+ million on a yearly basis when many of the Mets young aces will near free agency. A slugger in his mid to late 30s earning big bucks could hamper extension talks for Degrom, Syndergaard, and the rest of the talented young staff.
Next, where does Encarnacion fit on the infield? He hasn’t played extensively at third since 2010, leaving first base as his prime position. He’s never played first for more than 80 games in a year, and essentially makes top prospect Dom Smith irrelevant unless an injury arises. That also means either non-tendering or trading Lucas Duda. There’s a reason why the Blue Jays have often deployed him as their DH.
Thirdly, is it reasonable to expect production similar to that of his tenure in Toronto? The Rogers Centre is much more hitter friendly than spacious Citi Field. Additionally, he was in a lineup with Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, and Josh Donaldson. The protection in the lineup coupled with the likelihood of batting with men on base was much higher than what the Mets homerun-or-bust offense can offer.
Furthermore, there was no pressure on Encarnacion to be “the guy.” Toronto’s lineup was loaded so the burden of the offense never fell to one player. If the Mets fail to resign Cespedes, Encarnacion becomes the most dangerous bat in the lineup. Some players thrive with that designation (like Cespedes has shown over the past two seasons) while others fold. That unknown is a big risk within itself.
Big money contracts given to aging power hitters can set a team back (see Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Pablo Sandoval for example). This rings especially true for a New York Mets ownership that has shown reluctance to spend in past years. Defensive issues, the likelihood of decline (138 K’s last season were a career worst), and a contract that could become burdensome in it’s latter half makes Encarnacion an unwise fit in Queens.
This makes bringing Yoenis Cespedes back all the more imperative.