Monday, June 17, 2019

Encarnacion "Can't Wait" To Join Yankees Lineup; "It's going to be fun"

Edwin Encarnacion meeting the media on Monday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees made a big move over the weekend, as they acquired first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnación from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for right-handed pitcher Juan Then and cash considerations.

Encarnación, 36, is the American League leader in home runs with 21, which is also fourth in the Majors; 49 RBI, tied for third, and 48 runs scored (tied for fourth). He has a slash line of .241/.356/.531 (58-for-241) with 48 runs scored, 7 doubles, 21HR, 49RBI and 41BB in 65 games with Seattle this season. 

The Yankees' lineup will now have five superb sluggers, as Encarnacion will join catcher Gary Sanchez (.260 average, .946 OPS, 20 home runs, 43 RBI), first baseman/DH Luke Voit (.264/.384/504, 17 homers, 45 RBI), and - when they return from injury -Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

On Monday afternoon, Encarnacion said of what it will be like to play in this lineup, "I can't wait to see that. It's going to be fun, I know we're going to hit a lot of homers and we're going to win a lot of games."

In his debut against Tampa Bay on Monday night, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone batted Encarnacion fifth between Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius.

Boone said of what adding Encarnacion does for this team, "Potentially, it obviously can be a great lineup. We have a lot of great players, but now it's got to go play out. Obviously, we've got some guys starting to make their way back, you know, Giancarlo tomorrow (Tuesday) and Judgie later in the week. Getting two more elite level hitters, it has a chance to be a special lineup, but that's all it is right now. We've got to go out there and continue to perform, but certainly excited about the possibilities of it."

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said of getting the deal for one of the best hitters in the league completed, "We've obviously been involved in the 'available' market for a while and we had known that Edwin Encarnacion was going to be available ever since he got traded over to Seattle this winter (from Cleveland), and so, we kind of kept in touch. We've seen what he's done against us over the course of time. He's a very patient, powerful impact bat, his makeup is off the charts, and he's very well-liked by his teammates.

"If there was ever a need, as you remember this winter, to reinforce, he was someone we kept in mind as a question mark coming into camp, you know, whether Greg Bird or Voit - is Voit real, is Bird going to be healthy? So, then you look at potential alternatives, your insurance policies you have in-house, your potential targets outside the franchise. Obviously, Luke Voit's done a fantastic job, so we're lucky to have him, and Bird's been injured.

"He was on the verge of being traded, so we've been playing on if we could get the right fit in terms of cost of acquisition, and we stayed in touch with Hal Steinbrenner and plead our case of why we felt there was a lane for him to pass easily into. It would obviously push Stanton to the corner, with Judge in right, (Aaron) Hicks in center. Gardy (Brett Gardner) is obviously then becoming the extra player, so to speak, but again with the interest in resting people, there's a viable way of getting everyone consistent playing time.

"Voit and Edwin would be playing off of first and DH. We already see what we've got going on in the infield. We felt it was a real impact bat - not an area of need - but an area that does upgrade us, it does give us, most importantly Aaron Boone, more flexibility for coverage on a day-in, day-out basis. I kind of feel like every day Aaron Boone does come to the park, he has the chance to rest somebody of importance that will benefit us moving forward. We have a chance to be covered injury-wise because we have alternatives. He can play matchups a lot of different ways, too.

"I really felt if the cost of acquisition could come in line with something we could live with, it would be a move that would be prudent to recommend and make, and thankfully, Hal agreed, and it just came down to us versus whoever the field was and the competition for the player, and kind of went through the weekend until we were able to complete it, and hopefully, it will be an impact move for us. We're excited to have him, and we've got a long way to go, so hopefully, he'll be a good addition...

"There's a long way between now and (the trade deadline) July 31, so this had everything to do with, does this incremental situation make us better, the answer in my world, and my staff's world, was yes. I certainly consulted with Aaron Boone, our coaching staff, our pro scouts, our analytics side, and more importantly, ownership in the end. It was just as simple as that."

Boone said of this addition giving him flexibility going forward, "You look at a few of our guys that have dealt with some injury stuff, some of our guys who have had a history of some soft tissue things, that you want to avoid those long stretches where they're - especially some of those stretches where you play 17 in a row, you want to try and give your guys a couple of days off. We feel like the potential that we could have a few elite performers on the bench every night should allow us to create a rotation where we are getting guys once a week down because we have the depth to do that and, hopefully, over the long haul, that's something that plays out with better performances and fresher performances across the board."

Encarnación has hit very well at Yankee Stadium in his career, and his 18 home runs in 69 career games the second-most by a visiting player at the venue.

On why he hits well at The Stadium, Encarnacion said, "When you play here, every game is packed, so that may be why I have a good sensation here."

Since 2012, Encarnacion leads the Majors in home runs (284) and RBI (813). He is the only Major League player in that span to record seven seasons with at least 30 homers, followed by Nelson Cruz (five) and Mike Trout (five). His six seasons with at least 100 RBI since 2012 are also the most in the Majors (next: six players with four seasons). 

The La Romana, D.R., native was acquired by Seattle along with a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick from the Cleveland Indians in a three-team trade on December 13, 2018 in exchange for 1B Carlos Santana and cash considerations.

Encarnacion has had a  15-year career that began with with the Cincinnati Reds (2005-09) followed 
by a long stint with the Toronto Blue Jays (2009-16), in which they reached the ALCS in 2015 and 2016; the Cleveland Indians (2017-18), and Seattle this season.

The three-time All-Star (2013-14, ’16) is batting .263 (1,763-for-6,704) with 1,047 runs , 354 doubles, 10 triples, 401 homers, 1,205 RBI and 870 walks in 1,872 games. He was originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the ninth round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.

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