The New York Yankees are going to enter a highly anticipated 2017 season, after they became sellers during the trade deadline while also watching players like Marc Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez retire. They accepted defeat, and turned towards a rebuild in hope to create another dynasty in the near future. With the Yankees being under the luxury tax and constantly looking for ways to be competitive, they have a chance to replace their retired power-hitting duo at DH and first base; by making a run at Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Last season, they didn’t have the power that had pushed the Yankees organization to an MLB leading 27 Word Series Championships. Their bats didn’t come to life, with Carlos Beltran finishing with the most home runs on the team with 22 – despite being traded to the Texas Rangers in August. Rookie phenom, Gary Sanchez, stepped up to hit 20 bombs in 53 games, but he alone won’t be enough to carry the Yankees back into contention.
The Yankees have built their franchise’s mystic by hitting home runs, from players like Babe Ruth to Alex Rodriguez. While there are other ways to win, hitting homers has always seemed to payed off for the Yankees – with them having hit 200 or more home runs 13 times since the 2000 season; leading to 13 playoff appearances. The Yankees weren’t able to reach the 200 mark in 2016, 2014, 2013, and 2008 – all seasons in which they failed to participate in October baseball.
It’s obvious that the Yankees need some muscle, and there isn’t any better place to turn this offseason than the Toronto Blue Jays duo of Encarnacion and Bautista. After the Jays signed a designated hitter and first baseman in Kendrys Morales earlier this month, it probably marks the end for either Bautista or Encarnacion moving forward.
In their time with the Blue Jays, they’ve been spectacular on their way to leading their team to back-to-back ALCS appearances. Despite their success, tensions have been rising in Toronto – especially in Bautista’s case. It’s become obvious that the 36-year-old outfielder is past his defensive prime, but it didn’t stop him from making his free agency a topic of discussion even before the start of the 2016 season. There were reports of him wanting a deal around $150 million through 5 years, but that doesn’t look likely after his performance this season.
Bautista finished the 2016 campaign with 22 home runs, which was nothing compared to the 40 he hit a season ago. He also failed to make the All-Star team, after 6 straight appearances. Turf toe and knee injuries stopped Bautista from having a big contract-year, and should definitely impact his “present-day value” after he spoke so highly of it last February.
Bautista will be in a tough position at the bargaining table with the Blue Jays, but the Yankees could take advantage by throwing him a short-term deal – so he prove can himself next season around the league. They could also lock him up to a long-term deal with a chance to go against his old squad in the AL East, and add a slugger to their roster who’s currently 5th among active players in total home runs.
Of the two players, Encarnacion remains the top priority for any team around the league. He holds a much higher present-day value than Bautista, especially after leading the American League with 127 RBIs during the 2016 season. At 33 years old, it won’t be long till Encarnacion moves away from first base and into a DH role. For that reason, it becomes hard to prioritize a big deal with Bautista – since his defence will soon require him to move into a role that should belong to Encarnacion.
David Ortiz, who just recently retired, has expressed high interest in Encarnacion filling in for him with the Boston Red Sox. It’s safe to think they’re one of Encarnacion’s potential destinations, after his agent announced that he’s narrowed his decision to 5 teams. With a lot of interest around Encarnacion, this is a chance for the Yankees to potentially throw another massive contract at a power-hitter. It’s something they’ve become quite comfortable doing in their history, and would be a smart move considering Encarnacion’s production.
Along with becoming a fan favourite in Toronto, Encarnacion has been able to revitalize their lineup. In his past 5 seasons with the Blue Jays, the lowest amount of homers he’s hit was 34 back in 2014. His “Edwing” celebration has become a regular occurrence in the Rogers Centre, but it could be time that it electrifies the Bronx. He’s currently 4th among active players in home runs with 310, and doesn’t seem anywhere near done after appearing in 160 games last season.
Encarnacion and Bautista will both be tough targets to go after this free agency, but they’d be able to help the Yankees regain their identity alongside the “Baby Bombers.” With the Blue Jays already having players like Melvin Upton Jr. and Kendrys Morales ready to fill in, it’s time for the Yankees to take advantage of their opportunity and lock up a promising future.
All stats for this article are from MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com
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