The Texas Rangers still have some slots open this offseason, and their recent courtship of free agent Edwin Encarnacion could bring some big changes in 2017.
The Texas Rangers recently lost first baseman Mitch Moreland to free agency. The veteran signed a one year deal with the Boston Red Sox on December 8 for a reported $5.5 million. According to ESPN, the Rangers have recently spoken with the agent of free agent corner infielder/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. He could be just what they need.
Since Moreland, Carlos Beltran and Ian Desmond left Arlington for good this offseason, there is a need for a big bat within the lineup. Third baseman Adrian Beltre and outfielder Carlos Gomez certainly wield the biggest sticks on the roster now. But, Encarnacion and his “Edwing” could bring a whole new level of excitement to Globe Life Park.
The soon-to-be 34 year-old belted 42 home runs in 2016, good for third in all of Major League Baseball. He also led the league with 127 runs batted in and was selected to his third career All-Star Game. He also drew a career season-high 87 walks and totaled 318 bases, which was also a career high. He played a huge role in the late-season surge for the Toronto Blue Jays and did some damage of his own to the Rangers in the American League Division Series. However, he does have his faults.
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While power is certainly an asset for the Dominican Republic native, he doesn’t offer much defensively. He started 74 games at first base in 2016 and wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great, either. It’s true that he only committed two errors in 631 fielding chances, but fielding percentage is only a portion of the picture.
He was slightly below the average for first baseman in range factor per game and range factor per nine innings. What this means is, he’s a bit slow-footed in the field. While he doesn’t make many errors, he also doesn’t get to as many balls in play as his average counterpart playing first. It’s harder to make errors when you can’t reach the balls that some other more fleet-footed players could.
His batting average also dropped to .263, the lowest he’s ever had in a full season of at-bats. Furthermore, his strikeouts spiked to 138, by far a career high for him. Considering he isn’t getting any younger, this could be an indication of age taking toll on him. While “luck” does sometimes influence a player’s batting average, it could be just a fluke. But, his .270 batting average on balls in play suggests it’s actually pretty comparable to what his average should have been. Yet, these reasons for caution aren’t the biggest concern he brings.
Encarnacion can bring some great things to the Rangers. Teammates have seemed to get along well with him as a clubhouse guy, and his aforementioned power could instill some fear in opposing pitchers. But all of this would come with a pretty steep cost.
As a top three hitter in home runs last season, and as an image of fan-favorite, his open market value could be pretty steep. He turned down an from Toronto in the reported range of $80 million for four years. That’s a lot of money for a guy that will mostly play DH during the season.
He’s also worth a compensatory pick to the Blue Jays if he signs elsewhere. Since he turned down their 4/$80 million qualifying offer, Toronto will receive a first round pick from the team that signs him. With the Rangers looking to begin stockpiling the farm system again, this might be too high of a cost.
The Rangers have also given a lot of money to Shin-soo Choo, who might be facing a move to DH more permanently as well. This would mean there’s just not enough room for more than one guy best-suited to skip defense.
In the end, it will come down to whether Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels thinks he’s worth bringing in for those issues. Encarnacion hits home runs, chicks dig the long ball, and he’s an exciting player to watch. And with the number of times this organization has faced severe postseason disappointment, maybe it’s time to throw caution to the wind. Maybe it’s time to take a flier on Encarnacion. After all: what is there to lose?