Although free-agent designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is one of baseball’s most prolific sluggers over the past several years, there is no guarantee he will suit up in the majors again. Encarnacion wants to play two more seasons, but as a defensively limited 38-year-old coming off a brutal campaign with the White Sox, it’s possible no team will sign him this year. If there’s no universal DH in 2021, it would further hurt Encarnacion’s cause, as he acknowledged to Hector Gomez of Z Sports 101 in the Dominican Republic.
“The decision that there will be no universal DH in the 2021 season has greatly affected my chances of signing,” Encarnacion said. “I want a team to give me the opportunity to play daily to show that I can still produce.”
Indeed, the lack of a DH in the NL would lead to fewer potential suitors for Encarnacion. Either way, considering how his 2020 went, it would be difficult to imagine any team guaranteeing an everyday role to Encarnacion. He hit a career-worst .157/.250/.377 in 181 plate appearances, though Encarnacion did continue to show off above-average power (10 home runs, .220 ISO). He’s also just two years removed from recording a line of .244/.344/.531 with 34 homers and a .287 ISO in 486 PA between the Mariners and Yankees. That was Encarnacion’s eighth straight season with both 30-plus homers and terrific overall offensive production.
It may be too soon to write Encarnacion off as a result of the struggles he endured over a small sample of work in 2020, though it’s worth pointing out he also had an awful year by Statcast’s standards as well. For instance, Encarnacion posted a .372 expected weighted on-base average in 2019, but that figure plummeted to .268 last year as his exit velocity fell to near the bottom of the league (85.4 mph) and his strikeout rate soared to 29.8 percent.
It may take a spring rebound as a non-roster invitee to earn his way back for a 17th big league season, although injuries in camp could always open a more solid opportunity. Speculatively speaking, the A’s at least represent an on-paper fit for a low-cost roll of the dice after dealing Khris Davis earlier this month.