The Red Sox need a DH, and while they could go in a number of ways, there's no question that there's more smoke surrounding Edwin Encarnacion than any other option. More smoke by half. It's been the clear obvious answer for a while now, and while that didn't always mean anything under Ben Cherington (excepting Pablo Sandoval and that didn't turn out great), Dave Dombrowski has a tendency to make the obvious move. Need an ace? Get David Price.
This...has not started out as a great advertisement for the obvious move. And Edwin Encarnacion is not without concerns of his own. His 2016 batting line of .263/.357/.529 is really good! 133 OPS+ good, in fact. But it's also the worst he's produced since 2011, and the first real sign of decline since he became the sort of hitter that would be the obvious choice to replace one David Ortiz. At 33, he's no spring chicken, either, which is perhaps good reason to believe that 2016 was more than just a down year.
Working in Encarnacion's favor is the fact that this downturn was largely the result of an early slump. If you cut out even just the first ten games of the season, he hit to a .905 OPS, which is much more in-line with his performances in recent years. Any difference that might remain in OPS+ could be attributed as much to the spike in what constituted "league average" in 2016. Of course, games played in April do ultimately count just as much as games played in September even if we tell ourselves otherwise, and the same should be said about at bats taken then. You can't just excise a player's weakest games and assume that new average is going to hold up. But it's still less alarming than any sort of prolonged late-season struggles might be for a player with age concerns. And if age is always going to be lurking around the corner, well, getting Encarnacion out of the field can only help.
It's also worth taking into consideration the alternatives. If it were Encarnacion or bust, it might be easier to justify overpaying. But it's not. While a Yoenis Cespedes reunion hardly seems in the cards, particularly for a DH role, there's Encarnacion's teammate in Jose Bautista—older with a more alarming 2016, but still a guy with no little history of success with the bat. Mark Trumbo is also set to hit the market, and seems like a pretty perfect example of a poor man's Encarnacion. If you're looking to go all-in on old, Carlos Beltran managed to hit to an .850 OPS even at 39. And, of course, there's always the trade market.
So that's the situation with Encarnacion. He is, at least for now, a very good hitter. If he's not the only option, he would still obviously be a valuable addition to the team. The question, as always, is how valuable. How many dollars over how many years is he worth?
Right now it's not clear how his market is going to play out. The low end seems to be around four years and $80 million. The high end is probably closer to six years and $150 million. Also implicit in any deal is a first-round draft pick, assuming the CBA doesn't change that.
Personally, I think I err towards the lower end of that. Maybe a fifth year, maybe $25 million at four, but not much beyond that. But that's just me. What say you?