The Yankees made a surprising splash, trading for the slugging first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion leads the American League in home runs with 21, just ahead of his new teammate Gary Sanchez, but he was an unexpected grab for a team loaded with bats and in need of pitching.
Acquiring the 36-year-old may initially seem like a puzzling move, but it fits into the overall method that Brian Cashman first committed to by picking up Kendrys Morales. Morales was added as a primary DH that could also back up Luke Voit at first, and he got a consistent amount of playing time before heading to the IL on Thursday. Morales didn’t produce well enough to continue holding onto a roster spot. however, especially with sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge returning soon.
When Morales went down, the Yankees had some internal options that could’ve filled his role with the team. Mike Ford was with the club back in April and struggled but hit his stride in Triple-A Scranton, and Logan Morrison was signed to a minor-league contract during the season, but neither presented a chance to significantly upgrade the roster. Encarnacion has his defensive limitations but offensively is still highly productive, an ideal improvement to the roster construction.
Additionally, it didn’t cost them much to make the improvement. The Mariners are eating a significant portion of the money still owed to Encarnacion for this season, a decision to improve the prospect return, but they only got Juan Then. The 19-year-old is a ranked prospect in the Yankees’ system, but the farm still holds plenty of pieces remaining for future deals.
The move does coincide with the imminent return of Stanton and Judge, though. Stanton previously held the majority of the at-bats as the DH, which means he will have to head back into the outfield to make all the pieces fit. Judge is also a mainstay in the outfield, meaning that a chain reaction has to fall somewhere, and that probably ends up with Clint Frazier going down to Scranton. Frazier has shown a lot of promise in his stay this year, so his demotion could simultaneously bolster the trade pieces Cashman has in hand.
Ultimately, adding Encarnacion seems to be a great find, even if he doesn’t answer the immediate need. The Yankees bolstered their already deep lineup before the market could heat up, and can now pivot to watching the price tags on all of the arms with the rest of their depth secured.