JOINING THE CLUB
Edwin Encarnacion is about to become part of an exclusive group of earners at first base,
Published reports have free agent first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion seeking a contract that will pay him $125 million over five years. If the Jays, or some other team, agree to it, the 34-year-old Encarnacion will join seven other first basemen earning $20 million or more per season. Five of the seven will be 33 or older on opening day.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers Contract: Eight years, $240 million through 2023 2017 salary: $28 million Age on opening day 2017: 33 2016 numbers: .316/.393/.563, 38 HR, 108 RBI
Outlook: Cabrera made his 11th allstar team in 2016, and remains as productive as any first baseman in the majors. His .956 OPS ranked third among first basemen, while he was second in average and home runs.
Joe Mauer, Twins Contract: Eight years, $184 million through 2018 2017 salary: $23 million Age on opening day: 33 2016 numbers: .261/.363/.389, 11 HR, 49 RBI
Outlook: Mauer’s salary reflects a contract he signed at the tail end of his late 2000s prime. Between 2006 and 2009 he won three batting titles and an MVP award. The catcher-turned-first baseman hasn’t hit .300 since 2013, and his 11 homers were 33rd among first baseman.
Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox Contract: Four years, $88 million through 2018 2017 salary: $22.75 million Age on opening day: 33 2016 numbers: .286/.361/.505, 30 HR, 111 RBI
Outlook: There was much speculation in 2016 that Encarnacion could replace the retiring David Ortiz. That scenario could complicate life for Ramirez, who spent last season at first base. But Ramirez can adjust. He made three all-star teams as a Marlins shortstop, and spent most of 2015 in left field.
Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers Contract: Seven years, $154 million through 2018 2017 salary: $21.86 million Age on opening day: 34 2016 numbers: .285/.349/.435, 18 HR, 90 RBI
Outlook: Gonzalez boasts a long list of accolades — five all-star appearances, two silver sluggers, four gold gloves. And he has played at least 155 games in each of the last four seasons. But there are signs of decline, with career lows in slugging percentage and OPS last year.
Joey Votto, Reds Contract: 10 years, $225 million through 2023 2017 salary: $22 million Age on opening day: 33 2016 numbers: .326/.434./550, 29 HR, 97 RBI
Outlook: The Etobicoke native remains among the games’s most consistent hitters. His .434 on-base percentage led the majors and his batting average and slugging percentage outpaced his career averages. Will he be this productive at 39? Probably not, but think of that salary as deferred payment for his peak years.
Chris Davis, Orioles Contract: Seven years, $161 million, through 2022 2017 salary: $21.12 million Age on opening day: 31 2016 numbers: .221/332/.459, 38 HR, 84 RBI
Outlook: Davis couldn’t cash in on his first breakout season (53 HR,138 RBI in 2013) because he was still under contract. But his new deal reflects a major-league-leading 47-homer season in 2015. Can he sustain that production? Davis’s strikeout totals have climbed steadily, topping out at 219 last season.
Freddie Freeman, Braves Contract: Eight years, $135 million through 2021 2017 salary: $20.9 million Age on opening day: 27 2016 numbers: .302/. 400/.569, 34 HR, 91 RBI
Outlook: This two-time all-star set career-highs in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS (.968). Freeman is the only member of this group young enough to realistically expect improvement and he might still be in his prime years when his current contract expires.
Cincinnati’s ever-consistent Joey Votto led the majors with a .434 on-base percentage in 2016. The Etobicoke native will make $25 million at age 39.