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On Edwin Encarnacion

Some thoughts on one of the best

MLB: ALCS-Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing a little look at long time Blue Jays who may have played their last game in Blue Jays colors, let’s talk about Edwin Encarncion.

We picked up Edwin in a trade on July 31, 2009. He was a throw in in a deal sending personal favorite Scott Rolen to the Reds for pitching prospects Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart. Rolen had asked for a trade, wanting to be closer to his family. Rolen had a season and a half with the Jays, hitting .288/.358/.452 with 19 home runs in 203 games.

Roenicke and Stewart never became the pitchers we hoped they would be (I’m not sure if there is no such thing as a pitching prospect, but it does seem they they often busts). Roenicke did pitch in 29 games out of our pen, over 2 seasons, with 6.38 ERA. After leaving the Jays, picked up on waivers by the Rockies, he did have a good season in Colorado, with a 3.25 ERA in 88.2 innings as a reliever and then pitched in 63 games, the next season, for the Twins, with a 4.35 ERA and that was the end of his MLB career. Stewart made 3 starts for us in 2011, 4.86 ERA (26 hits in 16.2 innings). He was traded to the White Sox (with Jason Frasor) for Mark Teahen and Edwin Jackson (Jackson was flipped to the Cardinals for Colby Ramus and a handful of crappy pitchers). Stewart would put up a 6.14 ERA in 28 games, 9 starts, for Chicago.

Edwin is the last man standing in that deal.

I’ll admit, I have a serious soft spot for Edwin. He’s always been a favorite of mine. I tend to like guys that have power. And I also tend to like guys who, I think, are over criticized by fans.

He wasn’t universally loved from his first game in Jays colors. He wasn’t a good defensive third baseball. Back then, I talked to Brian Butterfield about Edwin’s defense and he said that Edwin hadn’t learned the proper footwork and, because of that, his throws weren’t consistent. Fans often have no patience for guys learning on the job. And, of course, since he didn’t hit great, when he first joined the team, it was hard to see the upside.

Edwin hit .240/.306/.442 for us, in the half season after the trade.

The 2010 season had some of everything for Edwin. First, before the season, he burned his face with New Years Eve fireworks. Then he had a shortened spring, due to a wrist injury (and, at that time, if there was ever a player that needed all of spring training to work on his defense, Edwin was the guy). Next he was on the DL in late April/early May. When he came back he hit 6 home runs in his first 7 games back, including a 3 home run game in Arizona. By mid-June he was hitting just .200 (but with a .467 slugging average).

On June 22, the Jays designated Edwin for assignment and sent him to the minors. About 2 weeks later, he was called back up. He did hit some better after being called back up, with a .262/.306/.497 line.

His year didn’t get any less interesting with the end of the season. In November, the Jays put him on waivers and he was picked up by the A’s. In December, the A’s would release him and the Jays signed him as a free agent. We owe Billy Beane thanks for both Josh Donaldson and letting us have Edwin back.

There was more fun for the Edwin come spring training. The plan, going into spring was that Edwin would DH, Jose Bautista would play third and Juan Rivera would play right field. That plan lasted until the last weekend of spring, when manager John Farrell noticed that Rivera had all the range of a garden gnome and that Jose Bautista very much didn’t want to play third. Suddenly, Edwin was back at third base. Again….Edwin really needed all of spring training to work at the position. Moving him there, at the end of spring training was unfair to Edwin and a recipe for failure. He did have a decent season with the bat, hitting .272/.334/.453, with 17 home runs.

Finally, in 2012, Edwin became the player we have come to know. Finally playing mostly DH (with a bit of time at first base and, famously, 2 games in left), he hit 42 home runs, hitting .280/.384/.557. It took a while, but he finally became a power hitter to match Jose Bautista. Over the past five seasons, Edwin has hit 193 home runs.

In 2012 I asked hitting coach Dwayne Murphy what caused Edwin’s improvement with the bat:

He's a better hitter. You learn each year. I really thought, when we first got him, basically everything was to oppo field, trying to hit the other way. He kind of turned the field around on him. We tried to teach him how to go to the middle of the field instead of oppo field. Now the barrel's getting there, and I just think it took a little over a year for him to learn, to learn to hit. And he knows how to get the barrel out there on the ball.

I think, added to that, was that the team finally stopped trying to force him into being a third baseman, and stopped putting him at the spot without giving him time in spring training to work at the position. I think we all do better when we are comfortable.

During the 2012 season Alex Anthopoulos signed Edwin to a 3-year, plus a team option, contract extension. We’ve paid him $37 million for the past four season. He’s more than earned his money.

One of my favorite parts of being a baseball fan is watching players grow and develop over time. Edwin has been a great example of that. When we got him, you could see the power he had. He wasn’t hitting a lot of home runs, but the ones he hit went a long way.

I’ve also enjoyed watching him come out of his shell more as he’s become more comfortable as a Jay. He’s more animated on the field. He shows enjoyment in the good moments. He still feels more comfortable having an interrupter when doing interviews, but I can’t blame him for that.

Edwin owns team records in home runs (16) and RBI (35 tied with Josh Donaldson) in a month. He’s also tied for the record for most RBI in a game (9, tied with Roy Howell). On the Jays all-time list Edwin is:

  • 7th in bWAR among position players
  • 5th in offense bWAR
  • 4th in Slugging Average
  • 4th in OPS
  • 9th in At Bats
  • 3rd in Home Runs
  • 6th in RBI
  • 5th in Walks

Favorite Encarnacion memories? Well, there was this:

Jose’s line “I reminded him there was a mound in the middle of the diamond” was pretty good.

Other than that:

  • Likely his biggest home run, the one he hit in this year’s Wild Card game, in the 11th inning, to walk-off the Orioles is something I’m sure I’ll never forget.
  • The whole parrot thing has been fun to watch develop.
  • The two three home run games. Watching his reaction to the caps being thrown on the field after he hit his third home run at Rogers Centre, in August 2015.
  • The 2-home runs in one inning game, 1 of which was a grand slam, on July 26, 2013 was pretty cool. He was just the second Blue Jay to hit two in one inning (Joe Carter did it too).
  • The 2 steal game (plus a home run) against the Red Sox in 2012.

If the Jays don’t re-sign him (I hope they do, but I think it will take more money and more years then I would be comfortable with) I will miss watching him play. And will miss seeing him and Jose sitting on the bench together. It seems like the end of an era. Edwin and Jose and then Edwin, Jose and Josh gave us the best middle of the order for many years.

I think, someday, Edwin and Josh will be together again on the Level of Excellence.

Share your favorite Edwin memories.