Encarnacion, an impending free agent, had been mentioned in trade rumors, but now gives the Jays a long-term solution at first base or designated hitter.
Much like teammate Jose Bautista a couple years ago, or Andrew McCutchen this past offseason, Encarnacion changed his mechanics this offseason. Previously, his top hand came off the bat; now both hands stay on, helping his swing stay shorter. He felt his swing had become too long.
"That’s what I thought, and the guy I worked with in the offseason told me that, too, that I had my swing too long," he told the Canadian Press this season. "The ball on the outside corner I had been pulling a lot. I now try to stay more to the middle and get my swing shorter with my two hands."
There's no doubt he's been much more effective handling pitches on the outside part of the plate. Compare his heat maps of his Isolated Power over the past two seasons:
The raw numbers: In 2011, he hit five home runs and .264 in 246 at-bats on those pitches; this year, he's hitting .273 -- but with 11 home runs in 132 at-bats.
Considering their history with Bautista, it's understandable that the Jays believe Encarnacion's new approach is for real, and not a first-half fluke. They also now have the middle of the order locked up for a combined salary of $23 million per year from 2013 through 2015. Throw in the fact that Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus won't be making big money for a few years, outfield prospect Anthony Gose is near major-league ready, catcher Travis d'Arnaud was just named Keith Law's No. 6 prospect in his midseason update (although he's currently injured) and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is a solid prospect, and the Jays won't be paying a lot for what should be a solid offense over the next several years.
Of course, it's possible Encarnacion regresses or the wrist issues he's battled in the past return, but I like the odds of this working out for the Jays.