Edwin Encarnacion and the Blue Jays have started up contract extension talks
This week, we’ve seen Kolten Wong and Salvador Perez each receive contract extensions. One of the next players to join them could be Encarnacion, a very different sort of player in a very different sort of situation. According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Toronto has extended inquiries; the extent of his interest is unknown; his extant commitment is through 2016; while an extenuating factor could be his age.
Even though Encarnacion is on the “wrong” side of 30, he’s done nothing but improve his most valuable asset—his power hitting. In the 2015 season, he hit .277/.372/.557 with a TAv of .324 and 39 home runs, up from .268/.354/.547, .310 TAv and 34 a year earlier. He might be just another weapon in a fearsome Blue Jays lineup, but he'd be good enough to be the best hitter in a championship-quality offense.
As such, this would mean that Encarnacion hitting the free agent market next season would result in some intense bidding wars for his services—at least as far as the American League is concerned. NL teams might hesitate before offering substantial money to a player whose bat is far better than his glove. Encarnacion is a minus-60 defender over his career, and even at first base grades below average. The long-term PECOTA projections tell the tale: Encarnacion, PECOTA says, will be an above-average hitter all the way into his 40s. But he'll be an above-average player through only 36.
For the Blue Jays, signing Encarnacion now would give them insurance–or, perhaps, leverage–for the impending negotiations with Jose Bautista, a hitter of similar caliber and a human of similar seasoning. If recent comments are any indication, those talks could be a long, drawn-out negotiation over what is probably going to be Bautista's final big contract. With that on the horizon, knowing exactly where they stand in negotiations with Encarnacion would give the Jays some certainty. Encarnacion has made it clear he wants to potentially end his career in Toronto, and if all goes well for both parties, a contract extension could make that possibility a reality.
Yasmani Grandal will get bulk of catcher’s work for Dodgers — including starts with Kershaw
In news that can’t be too surprising to anybody who follows the Dodgers, manager Dave Roberts told ESPN’s Doug Padilla that Yasmani Grandal will be handling most of the catcher responsibilities for the Dodgers this season, with A.J. Ellis serving as the second choice on most nights. On any other team, with any other ace, this would be the least notable news ever: Grandal projects to be the second-best catcher in the majors, thanks to elite framing and above-average offense.
But what is a bit of a shock is Roberts saying we'll see less of the Kershaw/Ellis battery that has been the norm the past few years. Those two have worked together 102 times since the 2012 season, which would make them the second-most-used battery in all of baseball over that span. That basically means that Ellis has been Kershaw’s personal catcher over this period, and it’s a role that Ellis digs the most.
Last season, Los Angeles initially wanted to make it clear that Ellis wasn’t necessarily Kershaw’s preferred catcher; the job-share between the catchers began on a platoon basis, with Grandal getting the majority of work against right-handed pitching and Ellis getting starts against lefties. Even with the platoon seemingly in place, Ellis still ended up gravitating toward Kershaw's starts, contrary to what the Dodgers were reportedly saying about personal catchers going into the season.
However, with the way that Yasmani Grandal performed, and with a new manager in town, things might change. If Kershaw looks even remotely more human in his first few outings throwing to Grandal, the local beats will have their leads all but written for them.