Thursday, March 17, 2005

Encarnacion Rumor

Please, no. Juan Encarnacion is the sort of player the Pirates have gone for lately - he's capable of putting up superficially impressive counting stats if everything goes right, but even if everything does go right, he's inadequate. He drove in 85 runs in 2002 and 94 in 2003, but forget about that: considering the parks he has played in, his best season was probably 2000 with the Tigers, when he hit .289/.330/.433. In 2002, he hit .271/.324/.449 in slightly more favorable hitting environments. He put up a .299 OBP last year.

Encarnacion doesn't even solve the Pirates' biggest outfield problem, which is center field. He hasn't played there since 2002. If he can't play center, he's not going to help much even if he improves on his godawful hitting the past two years; even during his best years, Encarnacion was only a few notches above replacement level for a corner outfielder. On defense, STATS Inc. says that he has the tools to be a good outfielder but that he takes bad routes and can't throw - stop me if you've heard that before. The Pirates would be just as well served by sticking with some combination of Tike Redman, Ben Grieve and Daryle Ward, despite those players' obvious shortcomings, rather than Encarnacion.

The other problem with Encarnacion is that he won't come for free - the Dodgers dumped him on the Marlins because he's owed about $4.5 million this year. The Pirates would probably have to pick up a big chunk of that contract, and they might have to give up a prospect too. I'm all for the Pirates spending money, but Encarnacion is not worth it. If the Pirates' advertising department just has to have a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins, I'm sure Lenny Harris can be had much more cheaply, and he'd only be marginally less useful than Encarnacion.

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Check out Mike Emeigh's depressing Pirates season preview here. It's good stuff.


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