For the first time in years Edwin Encarnacion is not in Blue Jays camp for spring training. But the new Cleveland Indians slugger maintains that Toronto was his first choice and says the Blue Jays were “too hasty” during his free agency this past off-season.
“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,” Encarnacion told Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today Sports. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.”
After eight seasons with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion had established himself as a premier power hitter and was widely regarded as one of the top free agent bats available. The Blue Jays reportedly offered Encarnacion a four-year, $80-million deal, and when he turned it down, the team acted quickly to sign designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33-million contract. Even with Morales in the fold, though, the Blue Jays remained in discussions with Encarnacion, who turned 34 in January.
He ended up signing with Cleveland on a three-year, $60-million deal with incentives and an option that can bring the total value of the contract to $80 million over four years.
“I didn’t know free agency was going to be so challenging,” said Encarnacion, who relied on his then-girlfriend and now fiancée for support. “There were times when I wasn’t drawing the interest I thought I would, and it got me down. She would support me and tell me not to worry, that it’s in God’s hands and He knows where to lead you. [It] helped because as much as you try to avoid it, you get worked up about these things.”
Encarnacion joins an Indians team that defeated the Blue Jays in the 2016 American League Championship Series and made it to Game 7 of the World Series before losing to the Chicago Cubs. Due the addition of the slugger and the return to health of several key players, Cleveland figures to be one of the AL favourites again this season.