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Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion watches the ball sail over the fence for a home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Miami, Saturday, June 23, 2012. (AP)
Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion watches the ball sail over the fence for a home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Miami, Saturday, June 23, 2012. (AP)

Blue Jays make Encarnacion the $27-million man Add to ...

Alex Anthopoulos seemed amused by the notion that there was a rush to sign slugger Edwin Encarnacion because if the Toronto Blue Jays waited until the off-season, they would have had to extend an $11-million to $12-million (U.S.) qualifying offer under terms of the new collective agreement.

No qualifying offer. No compensatory draft picks.

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"Really, I think we're kind of past the draft-pick phase," the Blue Jays general manager said Thursday, after announcing that the 29-year-old Encarnacion had signed a three-year contract extension worth $9-million a season starting in 2013, with a $10-million club option for 2016. "This is a player who is our cleanup hitter. You're not going to swap a cleanup hitter for a draft pick, especially at his age."

Anthopoulos still has a hefty to-do list heading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, most of it focusing on starting pitching. There are core offensive players available, but Anthopoulos and his staff are said to be leaning toward keeping their powder dry for pitching, thinking that they'll need to add another 190-to-200-inning starter, either now or before the start of next season.

Anthopoulos will not take any prospect off the board; he'll trade the future for now, depending on how much now he's getting and how much future he is yielding.

"Things are a little different this year," he said. "It's the third year that this scouting and player-development group has been together, and we all have a better handle on what we really have within the organization."

This signing was a "no-brainer," according to Anthopoulos.

Encarnacion's agent, Paul Kinzer, said last week that his client did not want to be distracted by negotiations during a career year. Anthopoulos thought it prudent, but asked if they could try to get something done during the four-day all-star break.

Alex Anthopoulos seemed amused by the notion that there was a rush to sign slugger Edwin Encarnacion because if the Toronto Blue Jays waited until the off-season, they would have had to extend an $11-million to $12-million (U.S.) qualifying offer under terms of the new collective agreement.

No qualifying offer. No compensatory draft picks.

"Really, I think we're kind of past the draft-pick phase," the Blue Jays general manager said Thursday, after announcing that the 29-year-old Encarnacion had signed a three-year contract extension worth $9-million a season starting in 2013, with a $10-million club option for 2016. "This is a player who is our cleanup hitter. You're not going to swap a cleanup hitter for a draft pick, especially at his age."

Anthopoulos still has a hefty to-do list heading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, most of it focusing on starting pitching. There are core offensive players available, but Anthopoulos and his staff are said to be leaning toward keeping their powder dry for pitching, thinking that they'll need to add another 190-to-200-inning starter, either now or before the start of next season.

Anthopoulos will not take any prospect off the board; he'll trade the future for now, depending on how much now he's getting and how much future he is yielding.

"Things are a little different this year," he said. "It's the third year that this scouting and player-development group has been together, and we all have a better handle on what we really have within the organization."

This signing was a "no-brainer," according to Anthopoulos.

Encarnacion's agent, Paul Kinzer, said last week that his client did not want to be distracted by negotiations during a career year. Anthopoulos thought it prudent, but asked if they could try to get something done during the four-day all-star break.

"Paul's a pretty straight shooter," Anthopoulos said. "There were enough comparables that we could get close."Acquired at the trade deadline in 2009 along with Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart in a trade that sent Scott Rolen to the Cincinnati Reds, Encarnacion was a defensively challenged, low-energy, soft-bodied right-handed batter who from a distance appeared often overmatched. He suffered burns to the face in January of 2010, in a fireworks accident that seemed to feed the notion that he was not a player to be taken seriously.

But Encarnacion has become a popular clubhouse citizen, and when Anthopoulos asked him to play winter ball during the off-season and focus on left field, Encarnacion's answer was two-worded: "No problem."

On the field, something clicked after the 2011 All-Star Game. His batting average after the all-star break was .291, 36 points higher than before the break. His OPS was .887, almost 200 points higher. Perhaps it is as Farrell says: some right-handed batters, like left-handed pitchers, take a while to be comfortable in their own skin, and in Encarnacion's case, that has led to more at-bats which allow, in Farrell's words, "the finer points of his game to make an impact."

"Steady," was Farrell's choice of word to describe Encarnacion.

Encarnacion had a 26-homer season for the Reds in 2008 and had 117 career homers before this season, which is why comparisons to another late bloomer - Jose Bautista - aren't applicable. Bautista had just 59 career homers before his 2010 breakout. What is similar, though, is that like Bautista, a mechanical adjustment has unlocked his power - in Encarnacion's case, it was reverting to a two-handed swing, contributing to the fact that eight of his 23 homers have been to centre field.

When Encarnacion takes the field Friday night for the first game of a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians, he will do so with a slugging percentage that is 83 points higher than his career percentage of .565 and it won't matter if he's at first base, third, left field or designated hitter. He is home, and for that reason it was a good if in some ways remarkable day for Encarnacion. He's been waived and sent down to the minors. He's heard boos. "But this is part of the game," he said Thursday. "You always have to work hard and keep your head up."

There will be moves made in these next two weeks, but Encarnacion isn't going anywhere. It will be heads up all right - but not for him.

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