We heard last month that Edwin Encarnacion was going to play some left field during winter ball. Well, the experiment is officially underway.
According to a report in the Toronto Sun, Encarnacion has played left field in four out of his first five games with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League.
Encarnacion proved to be pretty terrible with the glove at the hot corner, so he mostly split time between first base and designated hitter this past season. He’ll obviously be much more useful if he can add left field to his resume, though the Blue Jays already have plenty of options for their outfield with Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Rajai Davis and the recently-acquired Ben Francisco. Toronto’s GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this month that even second baseman Kelly Johnson could get a look out there.
Encarnacion, who turns 29 in January, batted .272/.334/.453 with 17 home runs, 55 RBI and a .787 OPS this past season. He posted an .887 OPS after the All-Star break.
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.
No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.
Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:
Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.
Manfred didn’t stop there, however.
An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?