The Encarnacion situation seems like one of those logical problems discussed in an introductory philosophy class: a situation, like the Prisoner’s Dilemma or the Tragedy of the Commons, in which individuals acting in their best interest wind up not getting their preferred outcome.
In retrospect, it obvious that Encarnacion wanted to return to the Jays, and that the Jays wanted him back. But both sides, unavoidably, looked out for their best interest. Encarnacion’s agent wanted to find out what offers were out there for one of the best power hitters in baseball, so he turned down the Jays’ offer (widely rumoured to be $80 million over four years). This is understandable, because he didn’t want to leave tens of millions of dollars on the table. The Jays, also quite understandably, didn’t want to get into a bidding war, and didn’t want to see all available free-agent options snapped up while they waited to see whether Encarnacion would return. So they swung into action almost immediately, signing Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce.
It’s a tragedy that Edwin won’t be back. I will miss him, and I will miss walking the parrot or the Edwing or whatever you want to call it. But signing him would have just postponed the tragedy to slightly further off in the future: Encarnacion turns 34 early this year, and isn’t likely to be effective for too long. What Jays fans wanted most – Edwin hitting home runs for years and years to come – is an option that is simply not on the table. Time always relentlessly marches on.
By the way, Cleveland fans will likely need to be patient with their new first baseman, as he has historically been a slow starter: his career OPS in April is .762 (it’s .936 in June). And things will be even worse in Cleveland, where there is no dome to protect him from the early-season cold. If he starts badly again, the team or its fans might wonder whether he was worth the money.