40 home runs is a big number in baseball these days.
There aren’t a whole lot of players who can accomplish this in any given year, let alone players who manage to accomplish this for multiple years in a row. Those who do (unless your name is Adam Dunn) often get elevated to a level of stardom and status that isn’t quite matched by those who hit say … 36 homers.
Just ask Toronto Blue Jays‘ Jose Bautista, who managed to lead the league in homers from 2010 through 2011 and ended up irreversibly changing the course of his career. Well, as it turns out, it’s also for this reason that the issue of whether or not his teammate Edwin Encarnacion should return for the rest of 2013 is a little more complicated than it seems.
At first glance, the answer is a simple “no”.
Even if Encarnacion is able to recover from his current wrist injury to a point where he can swing the bat as a DH for the rest of the year, there’s little to no reason why the bluebirds would risk re-aggravating the injury with a player who they’ve signed through 2015 with a team option in 2016. He should sit for the rest of the reason even if he’s 90 percent ready to go — no questions asked.
Except in this case, there is a question to be asked: can he hit 40 home runs?
I know — that’s just a number, but it is an important one not only for the player, but for the team as well. Sitting at 36 round-trippers heading into play on Thursday, Encarnacion is still on pace to accomplish the feat this season even with the few games that he’s missed with the injury. Missing another week would obviously change that outlook drastically, but it’s not entirely impossible.
Should he manage the feat, he’ll join a rather exclusive club of players who have reached the back-to-back 40-home run mark in recent years, a club that Bautista is a proud member of.
Though no one would argue Encarnacion’s contributions to the Blue Jays in 2013 as anything other than being fantastic, that home run number — perhaps more so than the fact that he now has consecutive 100-RBI seasons — is what’s going to get him truly recognized as an elite hitter in the league.
Sure, all that is just personal glory in a team game, but it’s not as though the Blue Jays would be hurting to have two back-to-back 40-plus HR hitters to sell seats at the Rogers Center and drum up interest in the 2014 season.
And as unlikely as it may seem, if for some reason or another they decide to blow it up and move one of them, having such a recognition from Encarnacion would make the sting of Bautista leaving that much less harsh (or it’d boost EE’s trade value — in an even more unlikely scenario, of course). Then again, the Blue Jays have seen first hand from Bautista how injuries can derail seasons swiftly …
In any case, the team will first have to wait to see whether Encarnacion’s wrist heals up before even having a decision to make. But if and when they do, it’s fair to say that there will just a bit of a risk-reward component to it.