BY CHRIS HAAS
On August 1st 2009, The Reds were 45-57 and well on their way to their 9th straight losing season. Late summer is typically the time of year when teams destined for failure ship off veterans to teams in contention for prospects. Which is why many were dumbfounded when Reds General Manager, Walt Jocketty, sent 26-year old Edwin Encarnacion along with two minor league prospects to the Toronto Blue Jays for a 34-year old Scott Rolen. Scott Rolen was having a big year offensively (.320 with 8 homeruns) to go along with the exceptional defense he’s famous for, but the Reds season was unsalvageable at this point. Strangely, it appeared the Reds brass made the trade with an eye on the future.
Sure enough, the future was right around the corner for the Reds. In Scott Rolen’s first full season in 2010 he provided veteran leadership, rock-solid defense, and a .285/.358/.497 line. He helped lead the Reds to their first winning season in nearly a decade and a playoff berth. Walt Jocketty was named Executive of the Year and the Reds appeared to have made a wise move in trading Encarnacion for Rolen. At least in the short-term.
Edwin Encarnacion was deemed expendable by the Reds for a few reasons. In 2008, Edwin Encarnacion had 23 errors from the third base position, easily leading the Reds in errors for the season. This performance earned him one of the best, most self-deprecating, nicknames in baseball: E5. An error by the third baseman is officially recorded as “E5” in a scorebook. Given his defensive struggles, the Reds rightly suggested that he would have more success in the American League where he can avoid grounders all together as a DH. Also, while E5 was certainly full to the brim of offensive potential, he wasn’t hitting the cover off the ball at the time of the trade. In fact, he was barely hitting at all- .209 with 5 dingers on the day of the trade. The Blue Jays were gambling on E5’s potential though, and as it turns out they hit the jackpot.
In 2010, the year after the trade, E5, found some modest success with the Blue Jays. He hit .244 with 21 homeruns as a part time player. He only had 332 at bats that year, which would put him on pace for 35 homeruns as a starter. That power display was enough for the Blue Jays to extend E5 on a relatively affordable 4 year/37 million dollar deal. E5 would quickly prove that his power stroke from 2010 was no fluke. In 2011 he hit .272 with 17 homeruns. In 2012, he exploded for 42 homeruns and 110 RBIs. Last year he hit 36 homeruns with 104 RBIs, cementing himself as one of the premier power hitters in all of baseball.
The scary thing is, E5’s rise may not have hit its crescendo yet. Currently, E5 is sitting at 16 homeruns…in the month of May. May isn’t even over yet. The only other Major Leaguer to hit more homeruns in May? Barry Bonds (17).
The Reds meanwhile are ranked 24th or worse in every relevant offensive statistic and there’s no question E5 would look awfully good protecting Joey Votto in the lineup.
If they Reds don’t regret the trade by now, they are getting closer with every ball E5 mashes over the fence.