The 2019 trade deadline was an odd one for the Yankees. They decided to stand pat despite a plethora of injuries and some clear needs. Their biggest trade during the regular season ended up being the acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion in mid-June. His time in pinstripes was quite the rollercoaster ride, and the Bombers ultimately failed to pick up his $20 million club option for 2020. Could a reunion still be in the cards?
Encarnacion played 44 games for the Yankees during the regular season, and was great when healthy. During that time, he hit 13 home runs and was worth 0.7 bWAR. Sadly, he wasn’t immune to The Great Injury Bug of 2019 and suffered a fractured wrist at the beginning of August. He returned for a few weeks in September, then went down with an oblique strain. That wasn’t the last we’d see of him, however. Encarnacion returned for the ALDS where he absolutely dominated the Twins to the tune of a .308/.357/.462 slash. He followed that up with a dreadful showing in the ALCS, where he collected 11 strikeouts and managed just one hit over 18 at-bats.
Assuming that all current Yankees enter spring training healthy (which we have learned is a dangerous assumption), Luke Voit should be the everyday first baseman. Since Didi Gregorius won’t be returning, Gleyber Torres will take over at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu will start at second. LeMahieu would presumably be the backup first baseman, unless Mike Ford sneaks onto the team, or the Yankees do experiment with moving Miguel Andujar.
As for the designated hitter role, the Bombers seem to be happy mostly slotting Giancarlo Stanton in there, and having him play left field sometimes. Obviously they wouldn’t sign Encarnacion with the thought of giving the nearly 37-year-old the starting first base spot, but he could fill in as the backup again, and alternate time in the DH spot with Stanton and Voit.
On the other hand, they’d probably be better off focusing on improving the middle infield depth, and maybe finding a backup catcher. It’s highly unlikely that the Yankees would bring back Encarnacion after they passed on his 2020 option, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea if he’d agree to a cheaper deal. The White Sox and Blue Jays are reportedly interested, so maybe we’ll see him back in pinstripes in another mid-season trade. If not, we’ll always have fond memories of the parrot flying to remember him by: