Edwin Encarnacion Rumors

Blue Jays Notes: Lawrie, Snider, Encarnacion

Alex Anthopoulos says Brett Lawrie has done everything the Blue Jays have asked of him, but the GM doesn't assume the top prospect will succeed instantly given that some of baseball's best young players take months or even years to thrive in the Major Leagues. Anthopoulos discussed Lawrie and other Blue Jays this morning with Jeff Blair of Sportsnet Radio FAN 590 in Toronto. Here are the details:

  • Though Lawrie is "not a finished product by any stretch," the Blue Jays want to get a look at him for seven weeks so they have a sense of how he matches up against MLB pitching.
  • The Blue Jays haven't talked about moving Lawrie to second base and they view him as their long-term third baseman.
  • Travis Snider, who was optioned to the minor leagues to create roster space for Lawrie, is "100%" a part of the Blue Jays' future. "He doesn't need a change of scenery," Anthopoulos told Blair.
  • Edwin Encarnacion, who has a .293/.359/.530 line since the beginning of June, still "has the chance to be an impact bat," Anthopoulos says. The Blue Jays have a $3.5MM option for Encarnacion in 2012 and aren't ready to give up on him.

East Notes: Marlins, Anderson, Encarnacion, Phillies

Here's the latest from the eastern side of the baseball map…

  • Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest tells MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez that the team wants to "concentrate on the season right now" and wouldn't comment on whether the Fish would offer Edwin Rodriguez a contract extension before the year is up.  Rodriguez, who took over as Florida's manager last June, is only on a one-year deal.
  • The Yankees released Trenton Thunder reliever Brian Anderson, according to Thunder reporter Mike Ashmore (on Twitter). The former outfielder was on the DL with a biceps issue.
  • The Yankees also released southpaw Andrew Sisco, according to the International League's transactions page.  Sisco posted a 5.18 ERA in 151 relief appearances for the Royals and White Sox between 2005-07 and hasn't been back to the majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008.  Sisco, 28, had a 1.88 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 rate in 16 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, though he'd also allowed 12 walks in 14 1/3 innings pitched.
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs calls for the Blue Jays to release Edwin Encarnacion or at least permanently relegate him to the bench.  "[Encarnacion is] an absolute disaster in the field, and his bat simply doesn’t even come close to making up for it," Cameron writes.
  • J.C. Ramirez, one of the prospects the Phillies received in the Cliff Lee trade, has pitched well at Double-A this season, writes Jim Salisbury for Baseball America.
  • It looks as if Domonic Brown will remain with the Phillies when Shane Victorino returns from the DL, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  This could mean the Phils send John Mayberry Jr. down to the minors, or perhaps Rule 5 draft pick Michael Martinez, who would of course have to be offered back to the Nationals. 
  • The Orioles are expected to release right-hander Ryan Drese, reports Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com.  Drese, 35, last pitched in the majors in 2006 and currently has a 6.55 ERA in nine games (six of them starts) for Triple-A Norfolk.
  • Overpaying for a designated hitter is "a new market inefficiency," writes Jason Collette of the DRaysBay blog.  Collette suggests the Rays (and other teams) should look to fill the DH spot with the same low-cost approach that the Rays used to rebuild their bullpen this winter.

MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post

Anthopoulos Talks Hill, Encarnacion, Wells, Arencibia

Alex Anthopoulos says he has has 'tinkered' and 'talked' about acquiring a third baseman and won't rule out potential acquisitions. But the Blue Jays GM remains confident in Jose Bautista's ability to play the position all season long. The defending AL home run champ played 48 games at third last year and spent 225 games at the hot corner for the Pirates from 2007-08, so the Blue Jays say they're set at third.

Last year's third baseman, Edwin Encarnacion, will combine with Adam Lind to play first base and DH. The Blue Jays are hopeful that Lind can handle first defensively and they're optimistic about Encarnacion's power potential. Anthopoulos says he thinks Encarnacion has "one more gear in there" and while he hesitated before comparing him to Bautista, the GM says he can see Encarnacion hitting 30 homers or more in 2011.

The Blue Jays are also looking for a bounceback season from Aaron Hill, and they have a decision to make before the season starts. The team can either exercise Hill's 2012-14 options before the coming season begins or they can wait until the offseason, at which point they'll be able to exercise his 2012-13 options or just his 2012 option. Anthopoulos declined to elaborate on the team's plan, but did emphasize that the sides aren't bound to Hill's current deal.

“There’s a lot of flexibility,” Anthopoulos told a crowd of about 500 Blue Jays fans at last night's State of the Franchise event. “We’re not tied into anything. There’s nothing that prevents us from sitting down with Aaron and his agent and saying we want to do a five-year deal, four-year deal, six-year deal.”

Anthopoulos also discussed one multiyear deal that has become the responsibility of another organization. He declined to confirm reports that the Blue Jays are sending $5MM to the Angels as part of the Vernon Wells trade. 

"The deal that was announced [Wells straight up for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera] was the deal that was agreed to," he said.

The Blue Jays have money to spend now that they've unloaded most or all of Wells' deal and they remain open to making acquisitions. Anthopoulos, a Montreal native and former Expos employee, says he can relate to fans who want a bona fide slugger like Vladimir Guerrero.

"I understand," Anthopoulos said. "He was one of my favorite players growing up and he's someone that I admire." 

However, Anthopoulos exaplined that he doesn't want to acquire players who get playing time in place of developing players. For example, the Blue Jays intend to provide their top catching prospect with the chance to show major league pitchers why he won the Pacific Coast League MVP last year.

“We really don’t want to get in the way of J.P. Arencibia because we do believe that he’s an important component of this team” Anthopoulos said. “He has nothing more to prove down [in the minors]. He needs to get an opportunity to play up here and we might have to let him live through some struggles early on.”

If the Blue Jays don't spend on free agents or through trades, they say they'll have more to spend on player development, the amateur draft and international free agency. Amateur spending will not end the Blue Jays' 17-year playoff drought immediately, but it's promising news for fans of a team that has seven of the first 78 selections in the upcoming June draft.

Blue Jays Sign Edwin Encarnacion

The Blue Jays announced that they signed Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year, $2.5MM contract that includes a club option for $3.5MM in 2012. The team says Encarnacion will play first base/DH, instead of third base, where he spent last season.

The A's claimed the infielder off of waivers  from the Blue Jays only to non-tender him a month later. Encarnacion would have been due for a raise from the $4.75MM salary he earned in 2010 if the A's or Blue Jays had gone to arbitration with him.

Encarnacion, who turns 28 next month, hit .244/.305/.482 with 21 homers in 367 plate appearances for the Blue Jays last year. He surged at the end of the season, homering in his last four games. He has a career .266/.373/.474 line against left-handed pitchers, so he could spell Adam Lind against lefties given Lind's struggles against southpaws.

Unless the Blue Jays intend to play Jose Bautista at third, they still have an opening at the hot corner. The Rays and Indians also had some interest in Encarnacion. Wasserman Media Group represents Encarnacion.

Rays Interested In Edwin Encarnacion

The Rays are interested in Edwin Encarnacion, tweets Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse, seemingly as a designated hitter/first base option.  Encarnacion, typically a third baseman, was non-tendered by the Athletics this month.  He hit 21 home runs in 367 plate appearances this year for the Blue Jays.

Indians Notes: Colon, Encarnacion, Choo, Punto

The Indians have been quiet this offseason, but GM Chris Antonetti is making progress on potential moves, as MLB.com's Jordan Bastian and others report:

  • The Indians have some interest in bringing Bartolo Colon back to Cleveland, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes (on Twitter). The right-hander pitched for the Tribe from 1997-2002 and is back on the radar and attempting a comeback. He last pitched in the majors for the 2009 White Sox.  Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer disagrees, shooting down the idea on Twitter.
  • The Indians' interest in Edwin Encarnacion appears to have cooled, Bastian notes on Twitter.
  • The Indians will discuss the possibility of a Shin-Soo Choo extension with agent Scott Boras this offseason. I looked at Choo's case for an extension back in September.
  • Antonetti said the club could have interest in adding an infielder. They are interested in Adam Everett, according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
  • The Tribe met a number of agents today, including the representatives for free agent infielder Nick Punto.
  • The Indians are close to signing former Rockies catcher Paul Phillips to a minor league contract.

American League Non-Tenders

This post will list all the American League players non-tendered today, but the best place to track all 200+ arbitration eligible players is our new non-tender tracker.

Anthopoulos Talks Encarnacion, Buck

Alex Anthopoulos spoke to Jeff Blair of The Fan 590 before his plane took off for Orlando yesterday, and the Blue Jays GM said he was trying to get a signing done right before the radio show call.  Some have speculated on Manny Ramirez, who's been hanging out in Toronto lately, while others point out that at the very least the Jays would wait a week until after the White Sox have declined to offer him arbitration.  At this point we know Manny likes the Blue Jays but not whether interest is mutual.  It does appear Manny needs the Jays more than they need him.  If a Blue Jays signing of any kind is to happen before the 23rd, it'd have to be a free agent not ranked as a Type A.

Anthopoulos went on to say that his talks with agents over the last week suggest the free agent market might move faster than in years past, as people "try to jump out early and get things done."

On the topic of Edwin Encarnacion, Anthopoulos explained that the third baseman is in line for an arbitration raise of $1-2MM on top of this year's $4.75MM salary.  That salary, plus Encarnacion's desire to play every day, wasn't a fit for the Jays.  Encarnacion was claimed by the Athletics, but he could still be non-tendered on December 2nd.  Anthopoulos has not closed the door in the event that happens.

Anthopoulos described the market for John Buck as "very, very strong" after talking to his agents at ACES.  He says Buck is "sitting on years and dollars that might be a little steep for us," but that the catcher's agents will give the Jays a chance to match before he signs.  We saw extra contract years tossed around for multiple free agent catchers last year; could a 30-year-old Buck find a three-year deal?

A’s Claim Edwin Encarnacion

The A's claimed Edwin Encarnacion off of waivers from the Blue Jays, according to the teams. The third baseman hit 21 home runs last year, more than anyone on the A's. Encarnacion batted .244/.305/.482 and reached the 20-homer plateau for the second time in his six-year career. Oakland GM Billy Beane, who acquired David DeJesus earlier in the week, continues his busy offseason search for bats.

The Blue Jays lost Encarnacion for nothing, but that's no surprise. The 27-year-old earned $4.75MM in 2010 and could have earned even more through arbitration in 2011, so he was a non-tender candidate.

Another non-tender candidate, Kevin Kouzmanoff, now faces an uncertain future in Oakland. Encarnacion has played all but nine innings of his big league career at third base, Kouzmanoff’s position. The A’s also have Conor Jackson, Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, Ryan Sweeney, Jack Cust and DeJesus, so there won’t be many at bats to spare at DH. It appears that Kouzmanoff’s days in Oakland are numbered, especially since he and Encarnacion couldn't platoon (both handle lefties better than righties).

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have an opening at third base. Jose Bautista played 48 games at the hot corner in 2010, John McDonald can play third and prospect Brad Emaus has experience there, too. However, it seems likely that the Blue Jays will consider acquiring a third baseman through trades or free agency.

Third Base Options For The Indians

Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that finding a third baseman will be one of his main jobs this winter. Here’s a look at needs, options and possible solutions for the Tribe:

The Goal

It would make sense to sign someone who can play third for a year while Jared Goedert and Lonnie Chisenhall develop into major league regulars. Goedert, 25, batted .283/.358/.532 with 27 homers in the upper minors this year. Chisenhall, who turned 22 this week, had a strong season at Double-A, but likely needs seasoning. 

Antonetti told Hoynes that he’d like to see improved infield defense next year, so free agents who can hold their own at the hot corner will appeal to Cleveland's front office.

The Options

Jayson Nix, Cord Phelps, Luis Valbuena and Andy Marte are internal options for the Indians, but none of the four have guarantees and it seems more likely that the Indians will add someone from outside the organization.

Adrian Beltre is a fantastic defender, but he has set himself up for a long-term deal and the Indians are probably not looking to make a long-term commitment to a third baseman given their minor league depth at the position.

Lots of other third basemen hit free agency this winter; the Indians could approach Jorge Cantu, Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, Brandon Inge or Juan Uribe about a deal. All of those players should draw interest from multiple teams – Inge has discussed a deal with the Tigers – but there should be plenty of alternatives.

Joe Crede has a reputation as a good defender and could look to return next year after sitting out the 2010 season. Felipe Lopez and Pedro Feliz could also be considerations for the Tribe, but, like Crede, both come with question marks.

Kevin KouzmanoffJose Lopez and Edwin Encarnacion are all non-tender candidates and could be available via trade or, by December, free agency.

A Possible Solution

The Indians have lots of choice, but here’s one solution I’d like to see: longtime Indian Omar Vizquel paired with Edwin Encarnacion (if he’s non-tendered). Vizquel, a switch-hitter who handles right-handers better than left-handers, could face tough righties and be a late-game defensive replacement at third and short. Encarnacion, who mashes lefties, could start against all southpaws and lots of right-handers. 

The Indians may not have the chance to sign either player and even if they’re both available, there are surer ways for Antonetti to improve his infield defense than combining a 44-year-old with someone who has played below average defense in every season of his career (Encarnacion’s career UZR/150 is -11.7).

But Vizquel can still get on base (.341 OBP in 2010) and play all around the infield and Encarnacion definitely has power. It’s one fun option to think about, even if the Jays decide Encarnacion is worth $5-6MM in arbitration and Vizquel re-signs with the White Sox.