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Report: Blue Jays offered Edwin Encarnacion four years, $80 million before signing Kendrys Morales

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that, prior to signing slugger Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million contract, the Blue Jays offered a four-year, $80 million contract to free agent Edwin Encarnacion. Heyman adds that the Jays are still interested in bringing Encarnacion back even after signing Morales.

Encarnacion, who turns 34 years old in January, hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI in 702 plate appearances this past season. He’s been one of baseball’s most productive hitters over the last five seasons and has even made some strides defensively at first base. Encarnacion just completed what turned out to be a four-year, $37 million contract, so the Jays’ most recent offer represents a significant pay raise.

With Morales in the fold, the DH spot is mostly spoken for in Toronto, so bringing Encarnacion back for full-time work at first base would push Justin Smoak back to the bench and likely would make him a trade candidate.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.