Edwin Encarnación is one of the best free agent hitters available right now. The Phillies were woeful offensively last year and could use a big bat in the middle of their lineup. On paper, the team and player seem to be a match. The case for the Philadelphia Phillies to be interested in free agent first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnación is relatively simple. But is making a run at signing him the right move for the franchise?
The Case For The Phillies Signing Edwin Encarnación
- They have an opening at first base, now that Ryan Howard is a free agent and is (finally) off the books.
- They have virtually no financial commitments for 2018 and beyond right now, so the luxury tax threshold is not a concern.
- They have a ton of money to spend, as they are a big market team who also recently signed a massive television contract with Comcast (plus the limited salary commitments mentioned above).
- Encarnación is an absolute masher, and he would give the Phillies a legitimate power threat in the middle of their lineup. He has 310 career home runs, and an astonishing 193 of those came in the last five seasons alone (he had seasons of 42, 36, 34, 39 and 42 home runs).
- The Phillies overachieved at the beginning of last year before coming back to reality, and they are headed in the right direction. If they add a hitter like Encarnación to the middle of their lineup, it may have a ripple effect that helps out young hitters like Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph. And if the Phillies can put together an offense that produces at about the league average, they might be able to ride that and their promising young pitching to a more competitive season in 2017 (this is a stretch, but it would be nice to give some of their young bats protection for their continued development).
- Attendance. Encarnación swatting 50 home runs in Citizens Bank Park next year would certainly bring people to the park, even if the Phillies fell out of contention.
The Case Against The Phillies Signing Edwin Encarnación
- They have made it clear that they are a rebuilding team that does not want or need to spend big in free agency right now.
- Ownership likely wants to keep their 2018 and 2019 financial commitments to a minimum, as there may be a number of superstar free agents in those classes (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, David Price, among others).
- Age/Contract. Encarnación is going to be 34 in a few weeks, and he is reportedly seeking a five-year deal with a significant salary. Even for a hitter as productive as Encarnación has been over the past five years, committing long-term to a hitter in his mid-30s can be a scary thought. Very few hitters age the way David Ortiz did.
- They just got out of a long-term deal with a first basemen that did not work out that well. Granted, Ryan Howard was younger at the time, but you have to wonder if the Phillies would really want to dive right back into a long-term commitment after finally getting out from under that Howard contract.
- While he can play first base, Encarnación is better suited to play for an American League team that can allow him to DH on a regular basis, especially as he gets older.
- The Phillies liked playing Tommy Joseph, who is just 25, at first base last year instead of catcher. Encarnación at first base would make it harder to find playing time for the promising youngster.
- Encarnación rejected a qualifying offer from the Toronto Blue Jays, meaning the Phillies would sacrifice their second draft pick if they signed him (it would be their first pick, but since the Phillies are selecting in the top 10 of the draft that pick is protected). For a rebuilding team like the Phillies, draft picks in the early rounds are crucial and are not often parted with.
Now, this hypothetical match between Edwin Encarnación and that Philadelphia Phillies would have to start with mutual interest. There is no indication that either side has any interest, and I am not trying to imply that there is. While this would seem to be a match strictly from a baseball perspective (team needs a bat, bat needs a team), it doesn’t make much sense for either side for the reasons I list above.
Encarnación turns 34 in January, and this is likely his last big contract. He would probably like to finish his career trying to win a World Series title with a contender and not on a rebuilding team like the Phillies. We have seen situations in the past where a veteran in Encarnación’s situation signs with a team just for a payday, but that doesn’t seem likely in this case. The Phillies have shown no interest in Encarnación or any other expensive veterans this offseason, which was crystal clear at the league’s Winter Meetings last week.
Final Answer: No, the Phillies should not consider signing Edwin Encarnación.