The Blue Jays might have just signed their Edwin Encarnacion replacement in Steve Pearce. What can we expect from him for next season?
The Winter Meetings are officially underway. Teams have begun signing free agents and some big names are off the board. The Toronto Blue Jays are one of them, finally signing their first baseman. Sorry, it’s not Edwin Encarnacion. The team announced that they signed first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce to a two-year deal. What can we realistic expect from him in 2017?
Pearce spent his first five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates before bouncing around between the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Houston Astros in 2012. He spent three more seasons with the Orioles before signing with the Tampa Bay Rays. He then finished the 2016 season with Baltimore again.
Throughout his 10 seasons, Pearce has just 66 home runs, 215 RBI and a .254/.333/.441 line. He wasn’t much of a power hitter early in his career, but it developed recently. He hit 21, 15 and 13 in his last three seasons.
Pearce going to Toronto provides them with a lot of lineup flexibility. He has experience at both first base and outfield. This signing is the indicator that Encarnacion will not be coming back. That opens up a spot at first base. He could split time with Justin Smoak at first.
He could also spend time in the outfield. The Blue Jays will likely be without Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista in the corner positions. Unless Toronto signs an outfielder, Pearce can log significant playing time throughout the season.
For fantasy, the Blue Jays lineup will see somewhat of a decline in performance. Losing Encarnacion and Bautista is bad for the lineup and starting pitchers. That is 64 home runs and 196 RBI absent from the lineup.
Staying in the American League East benefits Pearce. He’s had success hitting in three of the four ballparks. For his career, Pearce has a .266 average with 44 homers and 121 RBI in AL East stadiums.
Pearce did undergo forearm surgery in September, which has a four-to-six month recovery timetable. He should be ready for Spring Training. Unless there is a setback, I don’t see why this injury would affect him.
The Blue Jays still have Josh Donaldson, Kevin Pillar, and recently signed Kendrys Morales in the lineup. Pearce, 33 years old, could hit another 15 home runs and drive in close to 50 runs.
His dual-position eligibility helps his value, but Pearce still ranks outside of my top 250.