The 2014 Cincinnati Reds surprised a lot of observers by sporting one of the better starting rotations in baseball through the first half of the season. It was the offense, usually a strength on the Riverfront, that doomed the Reds to tank in the second half, and the team failed to bolster its lineup with help from the outside. One player who definitely would have helped, and who once swung a heavy bat for the Reds is Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion. He is number 12 on our Countdown Team, with just (yes) 12 days until Spring Training.
More from Cincinnati Reds
- Johnny Cueto Trade: Reds Winners?
- Reds Recap: Win to Start the 2nd Half
- Does MLB Enslave Pete Rose?
- ICYMI: MLB All Star Weekend
- Reds Recap: Brewers’ Fireworks
The Texas Rangers selected Encarnacion in the ninth round of the 2000 amateur draft and then shipped him to the Reds, along with Ruben Mateo, in exchange for Rob Bell in 2001. Encarnacion then spent four years in Cincinnati’s minor league system before debuting in the Major Leagues on June 24, 2005.
Always a powerful hitter, Encarnacion smacked nine home runs for the Reds that summer in just 69 games, but he hit a paltry .232. Over the next few seasons, he played primarily at third base on the Riverfront, and he continued to produce good power with middling on-base abilities. After a 2008 season in which he hit 26 home runs, Encarnacion was traded to the Blue Jay at the trade deadline in 2009 after 43 underwhelming games with the Reds.
The Reds also sent Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to Toronto in that deal, netting third baseman Scott Rolen in return. This move was arguably the best of general manager Walt Jocketty’s tenure with the Reds, as Rolen not only provided beefed-up production at third base, but he also helped youngsters Joey Votto and Jay Bruce turn the corner on stardom.
Encarnacion, too, benefited greatly from the trade. He continued to struggle with consistency through 2010, but by the end of 2011, he was firmly established in Toronto’s lineup and has found his rhythm as a combination DH-first baseman. Since the start of the 2012 season, Encarnacion has hit 112 home runs and regularly posts an OPS of over .900.
He is undoubtedly one of the most potent offensive forces in the game today, and, at 31, likely has a few more big seasons ahead of him.