At this point, I have not formulated a firm opinion about the Cardinals' coming to terms with outfielder Juan Encarnacion on a reported three-year, $15 million contract. So, I am sharing some of my thought process.
Relative youth. Encarnacion is 29 years old, almost ten years younger than the players he will help to replace, Larry Walker and Reggie Sanders.
Five-tool talent. Yet, despite his gifts, Encarnacion has been branded an underachiever throughout his career. Will he finally realize his potential with Pujols and company or be a Roger Cedeno-sized disappointment?
Good defender. Encarnacion has both a plus arm and plus range in right field. He can also play center if need be.
No draft pick forfeited. Encarnacion was not offered a contract by his previous team, the Florida Marlins. Therefore, the Cardinals do not forfeit any compensatory draft picks for his signing.
Decreases urgency to trade a pitcher. One can argue that the 2006 rotation and the staff overall will be much stronger if Anthony Reyes is in the rotation and Sidney Ponson straightens out his career in the bullpen, at least from the start.
Proven major league starter. This signing moves So Taguchi back into the fourth outfielder role, for which I think he is best suited.
Average player. None of Encarnacion's numbers - whether home runs, RBI, average, on-base percentage, slugging - none of it - stand out. Good, but not great, which seems to characterize the entire Cardinals' offseason to date.
Erratic play at times. "Lack of concentration" has often been used in describing Encarnacion. Adjectives often used characterize him as "mistake hitter", "impatient" and "streaky".
$5 million per year
salary. The money
seems high, but that is the current market. As a reference, it is identical to
what Reggie Sanders received from
Three-year contract. However, there has been no word that his contract includes a no-trade clause, so Encarnacion could potentially be flipped later if needed.
Bounced around. Encarnacion has played for
Post-season struggles. Encarnacion complained publicly about losing playing time in the 2003 postseason, during which he hit just .184. It was his only career playoff action, during the same season in which he posted a career best in RBI with 94.
So, there you have it. Some arguments in Juan Encarnacion's defense and some legitimate concerns, as well.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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