Yankees Free Agent Showdown: Encarnacion or Bautista?
Former Blue Jays sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would both be an excellent fit for the New York Yankees open DH spot in 2017 and beyond.
One of the most satisfying moves the New York Yankees could make this winter would be stealing away one of the two superstar sluggers from the Toronto Blue Jays who have made their lives so miserable over the last few years. The Bombers have had a woeful 13-25 record (.325 W-L%) against their AL East in the previous two seasons, and a big part of that has been the dynamic duo of Bautista and Encarnacion.
The Bombers have had a woeful 13-25 record (.325 W-L%) against their AL East in the previous two seasons, and a big part of that has been the dynamic duo of Bautista and Encarnacion.
The money the club shed in the Brian McCann trade reportedly has them eyeing some of the big bats available on the free agent market, and perhaps the biggest upgrade they could make in their DH spot would be signing one of the two former Jays, especially since they reportedly have no plans to sign Yoenis Cespedes.
So which of the veteran sluggers is a better fit for the Yankees going forward?
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At 33, Encarnacion is a little more than two years younger than Bautista and has been more durable and consistent in recent seasons. He’s also coming off the better 2016 campaign, hitting .263/.357/.529 (133 OPS+) with 42 home runs and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 plate appearances, good for 3.7 WAR according to Baseball-Reference.
The main argument for Bautista is that he was the better player from 2014-2015, accumulating 12.1 WAR vs. Encarnacion’s 8.3 WAR in that span. He dealt with several nagging injuries all season, including a hip issue, a bout with turf toe, and a knee sprain, which limited him to just 116 games.
Bautista still put up an OK .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 517 plate appearances, and it’s easy to imagine him rebounding with a vintage season if he’s healthy next season, especially if he signs with a club like the Yankees who could employ him as their regular DH.
At this stage of their careers, neither Bautista or EE should be playing the field much, although Joey Bats is slightly more versatile defensively as he can handle the outfield corners (think Carlos Beltran-like skills) as well as first. Encarnacion actually has graded out as a passable first baseman in his limited action in recent years but is probably not an everyday option.
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MLB Trade Rumors expects Encarnacion to almost double Bautista’s commitment (four and $92 million vs. three and $51), while Dave Cameron of FanGraphs sees a much smaller gap (four and $84 million vs. three and $75 million).
The Verdict: The only situation where Bautista would be preferable to Encarnacion is if he’s willing to take a one-year pillow contract. If they are taking home anything close to the same contract, EE is clearly the safer pick.