Hottest speculation has Astros in the lead to sign Encarnacion
Houston Astros reportedly at front of line for Edwin Encarnacion with Blue Jays still in play.
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There was a lot of talk, but no action in the Edwin Encarnacion free-agent sweepstakes.
With the major league collective agreement set to expire at midnight Wednesday and talks going down to the wire, many potential suitors for Encarnacion and other big names were waiting to find out what the new ground rules will be. But they also want to be in position to move quickly once the new deal is complete.
The hottest speculation has the Houston Astros at the front of the line to land the 34-year-old Encarnacion, who earlier turned down a four-year, $80-million offer to return to the Blue Jays.
The Toronto fan favourite is arguably the top free-agent power hitter available and his agent, Paul Kinzer, said this week that the Blue Jays remained strong contenders for his services after seven seasons as a Jay. The Jays, for their part, have said publically that they’re still interested, despite the recent signing of free-agent first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales.
The Jays have also been linked to free-agent leadoff man Dexter Fowler, and Mets outfielder Jay Bruce.
Talk about Encarnacion’s next move heated up in the wake of the Mets’ re-signing outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million deal — among the biggest ever handed out in terms of average annual value.
Encarnacion is reportedly looking for $125 million over five seasons.
The Astros were also in the hunt for Cespedes, but adding Encarnacion — who has hit 193 homers with a .912 on-base plus slugging mark since 2012 — would also make their offence perhaps the most dangerous in the majors.
They have already been among baseball’s busiest clubs this off-season, trading for veteran catcher Brian McCann from the Yankees and signing free-agent outfielder Josh Reddick. Adding Encarnacion as well could set up a powerhouse batting order like this: George Springer, Reddick, Jose Altuve, Encarnacion, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, McCann, Evan Gattis and Yulieski Gurriel.
With that much depth, Houston would be in position to turn around and make a strong trade pitch for White Sox ace Chris Sale, with Chicago still fielding offers for several of its stars.
The Astros are also said to have interest in 39-year-old lefty-hitting free-agent Carlos Beltran, who would cost less over a shorter term.