Why the Rangers need to sign Edwin Encarnación
With the Rangers’ longtime first baseman, Mitch Moreland, departing earlier in the offseason for the Boston Red Sox, Texas is left with a hole in its lineup. Moreland’s bat was average during his seven years with Texas, as he posted a .254 average with a .754 OPS and never hit more than 23 home runs in a season.
Nevertheless, Moreland has headed for Fenway, and the Rangers must find his replacement. The fix could be internal — with the likes of Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar, or, possibly, even Shin-Soo Choo sharing the first base chores.
However, heading into 2017 the Rangers have less of a window than they did a year ago.
With Yu Darvish heading into the final year of his contract and Cole Hamels aging, the Rangers undoubtedly need to be in “must-win mode” this season. The best — and most expensive — option for the Rangers at first base comes by way of Edwin Encarnación.
Encarnación, who is a former Rangers’ draft choice and a certified Ranger killer the past two postseasons, would fill a hole in the middle of the Texas lineup. Encarnación has been one of the premier offensive first basemen in the major leagues for the last five years. Statistics show that 2016 was his best offensive season in the majors, hitting .263 with 42 home runs and 127 driven in, along with an .886 OPS.
An All-Star last season, Encarnación hit the gargantuan home run against the Orioles to send the Jays to the ALDS against the Rangers (who they eventually swept). This was the same game in which Orioles Manager Buck Showalter decided against using Zach Britton, the best closer in baseball, during extra innings because he was on the road.
Encarnación’s shortcomings, however, lie on the defensive end. He posted a dWAR of -1.2 last season, compared to Mitch Moreland’s 0.0, which helped earn the left his first AL Gold Glove. Moreland also had seven Defensive Runs Saved last season, while Encarnación had zero. He did, however, play 75 games at first base in 2016 (and 86 at DH). While the team who signs him won’t be getting a Gold Glover, he is at the very least capable of playing the position. With the Rangers current roster makeup, a similar split between first and DH would likely be seen in 2017, with the players mentioned above filling the other 85 or so games.
For one reason or another, Encarnación’s market on the hot stove seems to have crashed since he was reportedly close to a deal that would have returned him to Toronto. There has been no new news on him for weeks now, which would seem to indicate his price has dropped or is dropping by the minute. This bodes well for the Rangers, who, at the right price, will expand the budget like they did for Ian Desmond in 2016. While the costs would still likely be steep, a lineup with Encarnación looks a lot better than one without.
- Gomez CF
- Mazara LF
- Beltre 3B
- Encarnación 1B/DH
- Odor 2B
- Lucroy C
- Choo RF
- Rua/Gallo/Profar 1B/DH
- Andrus SS
This lineup would be one of the most feared in the American League and could put up crooked numbers on any given night. If the Rangers plan on being in “must-win mode” and contending for the American League in 2017, Edwin Encarnación is a big piece to the puzzle.