The Astros have been linked to various first base/DH-type players this offseason. Even with Nelson Cruz off of the free agent market, there are still a few names of interest to consider.
On the surface, the almost 36-year old would likely enhance Houston’s lineup. For example, Encarnacion would fit the Astros’ DH role nicely as he had a 115 wRC+ and slugged 32 home runs for the Indians last season. He could also play a bit of first base as he isn’t much below an average option at the position by the defensive metrics.
The Mariners should listen to any offer for Encarnacion, especially as they enter a rebuilding effort. And the price shouldn’t be high for a first base/DH-only player scheduled to make $20 million in 2019. For the Astros to land Encarnacion, the biggest threat may be other suitors for his services rather than any asking price from Seattle.
Trading for Encarnacion does create a short-term roster crunch in 2019. Tyler White had a terrific second half of the season when given another opportunity. Yuli Gurriel may look more like his 2017 self as he is further removed from his hamate bone surgery. At the same time, it is rather doubtful that Houston will exercise the $25 million option on Encarnacion’s contract in 2020. Instead, I think the Astros may go with the $5 million buyout.
While Encarnacion’s best days are likely behind him, the right-handed hitter would fit in nicely. The Astros are trying to maximize their title contention chances in 2019 before Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Collin McHugh enter free agency, so adding the veteran hitter makes sense.