Edwin Encarnacion is no longer a Blue Jay. He is now a member of the Cleveland Indians, having signed a three-year, $60 million contract this week.
News of Edwin’s departure has divided Blue Jays fans from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Whereas some blame management for losing a great slugger and fan favourite, others blame Edwin’s agent for misreading the market.
Our take is that the business of baseball itself is to blame.
The facts show that Edwin was offered a 4-year, $80 million contract. In a market where the top rate was $25 million a year, this offer was very good considering Edwin’s age and overall baseball skill. Although Edwin is one of the best power hitters in baseball, fans must acknowledge that he is not fleet of foot and that his batting average generally sits between .260 and .270. So he did not command $25 million a year.
Media reports say that Edwin wanted to stay in Toronto. The question one must then ask is why was the Blue Jays $80 million offer rejected?
Playing devil’s advocate, management may have interpreted the rejection as a sign of insincerity. $80 million is a lot of money, even in professional baseball. If a player of Edwin’s calibre truly wanted to remain a Blue Jay, then the offer should have been accepted, especially now that we now that his value on the market was $20 million a year.
The Blue Jays are obligated to field a competitive team. Indeed failure on the part of President Shapiro and GM Adkins could put their jobs in jeopardy. So once Edwin rejected the offer, Blue Jays management was required to examine contingencies. If they waited and signed nobody and then also lost Edwin, Blue Jays fans and the media would be levelling even more criticism at management. And so Blue Jays management did exactly what a good business would do; a key employee rejected a contract and they hired somebody else who they thought could be of value to the team.
The reality for the Blue Jays is that they lack depth in the farm system. Going for broke in 2015 with the acquisitions of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki cost the team a lot of young talent. The trade for R.A. Dickey a few years ago also cost Toronto two talented young stars.
And so Toronto must rebuild and look to future to secure new young talent and secure the young talent that it currently possesses on the pitching mound, namely Stroman, Sanchez and Osuna.
We wish Edwin all the best in Cleveland. He was a terrific player here and brought Blue jays fans a lot of joy. But in the professional baseball business we must recognize that very good players often finish their careers with teams other than the teams where they had the most success or where they provided fans with the most fond memories.