Posted on December 1, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
With Yoenis Cespedes re-signing with the New York Mets earlier this week, the biggest free agent of the offseason is already off the board, and so it’s likely that more free agents will start to sign with teams, especially with a new labor agreement being reached late night Wednesday. The next big-name free agent to sign could be Edwin Encarnacion, whose agent says a deal could be signed later this week or early next week when the Winter Meetings kick off.
At the moment, it appears Encarnacion is down to the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Astros. The Boston Red Sox were involved earlier this offseason, but reports earlier this week indicate that the Sox aren’t likely to be among the finalists for Encarnacion’s services.
According to Encarnacion’s agent, Paul Kinzer, the Blue Jays may actually be the favorite at this point. Toronto made a hard push to re-sign Encarnacion early in the offseason, offering him a four-year deal worth $80 million. But toronto started to back off and explore other options when a deal didn’t get done. More recent reports have the Blue Jays pushing hard for both free agent center fielder Dexter Fowler and Mets right fielder Jay Bruce. This would indicate that the Blue Jays are looking at players other than Encarnacion, especially with Kendrys Morales on board, but Kinzer insists that’s not the case.
“The Jays are showing Edwin the most love,” Kinzer said earlier this week. “We’re talking. They want him back. (GM) Ross (Atkins) has been talking to Edwin. They have a great relationship.” Kinzer has also implied that Encarnacion may not necessarily sign with the highest bidder. “(Encarnacion is) going to decide where he’s comfortable. One of the things we have to look at is the big difference in the tax base between some of the teams that are interested. Plus, there’s a comfort level we need to consider.” This statement could indicate that Encarnacion may be leaning towards a return to Toronto.
However, there have been rumors stating that Encarnacion already had a deal in place with the Astros, although those rumors have been disputed. Houston reportedly made a serious offer for Cespedes before he signed with the Mets, and so moving onto Encarnacion once Cespedes was off the market is not a far-fetched scenario. The Astros have already been busy this offseason and may be poised for one more big move, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a serious run at signing Encarnacion. Kinzer has also described the Astros as a “great fit” for Encarnacion.
That leaves the Yankees, who may be the sleeper in the Encarnacion sweepstakes. The Bronx Bombers have been hesitant to make a move before the new CBA was in place, but now that they now what the luxury threshold is, the Yankees may be more inclined to make a move. Yankees GM Brian Cashman has said that he won’t be shy this winter about adding a big bat, and Encarnacion could fit into the vacancy the Yankees have at DH without Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira on the roster.
Kinzer said on Wednesday night that there’s “nothing imminent” with Encarnacion, but he previously said that two teams made “serious offers,” and so it would make sense that everything is coming to ahead and that Encarnacion will make a decision soon. It’s possible that Kinzer will try to drag things out until the Winter Meetings get underway, but it’s possible that a deal gets done sooner. Right now, the Blue Jays and Astros have to be the favorites for Encarnacion, although the Yankees, and perhaps a mystery team, could still make a play to sign one of the top sluggers left on the free agent market.