Despite a tough 2020, Edwin Encarnacion is looking to return next year for his 17th Major League season, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). Encarnacion is on the free agent market after the White Sox declined their $12MM club option on his services.
Signed to a one-year, $12MM deal (with that 2021 option) last winter, Encarnacion struggled in Chicago, hitting only .157/.250/.377 with 10 home runs over 181 plate appearances and posting some ugly Statcast metrics. Encarnacion’s continued production throughout his 30s has already been remarkable and he would hardly be the only slugger to hit a wall in his age-37 season, though there is some reason to believe that a turn-around is possible. As Heyman notes, Encarnacion is a traditional slow starter, so the shortened season didn’t allow him time to ever really get on track.
With 424 career homers and a long track record of performance prior to 2020, Encarnacion is sure to get some attention on the open market. However, his chances of landing another deal would greatly improve if the National League adopts the designated hitter again in 2021. Encarnacion was deployed exclusively as a DH last season and has mostly worked only as a part-time first baseman in the last few years, so it remains to be seen if an NL team would entrust Encarnacion with a regular (or even semi-regular) first base gig without the luxury of a DH spot to keep him fresh.