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Toronto Blue Jays sign Steve Pearce for $12.5 million, two years

The baseball winter meetings didn’t take long to get interesting for Toronto Blue Jays fans. With large number of last year’s players leaving via free agency, some serious holes in the team’s roster have been created. Thankfully, executives Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro have gotten straight to business at the meetings in National Harbor, Maryland.

Steve Pearce meets a serious need for a first basemen to share fielding duties with Justin Smoak and newly acquired slugger Kendrys Morales. He’s a regular right-handed slugger in a division that prides itself on the long ball, and his past few seasons show a pedigree of delivering solid numbers. It seems that the Jays front office is not going to waste anybody’s time when it comes to acquiring the assets they need to repeat the successes of 2015 and 2016, and make another serious run at the postseason.

The 33-year-old is no stranger to the AL East, having jumped between the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays for the last couple of seasons. Pearce had a career year with the Orioles in 2014, netting a .930 OPS with 21 home runs in 102 games. While he hasn’t been able to replicate those career numbers since, he had a solid 2016 spread between the Rays and the Orioles. Pearce has postseason experience as well, having played in seven games of Baltimore’s 2014 run for the pennant.

Pearce plays reliable first base (with a career .994 fielding percentage), but is capable of playing at a variety of positions, like he did for Tampa. This gives manager John Gibbons and the Blue Jays some much-needed versatility in the infield. Pearce has also played a bit of the outfield — 208 times over his career — allowing for some flexibility as game situations change.

This likely means the deal for Edwin Encarnacion is dead. As Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports indicates, it might be a matter of right place wrong time for the Blue Jays home run hitter, after the team’s initial $80 million deal was rejected by the veteran player. The boat seems to have sailed after the acquisitions of Pearce and Morales: power and reliable coverage at first seem to be covered, leaving little room for a player of Edwin’s particular talents. Now Jays fans hold their breath, waiting to see what other moves Atkins and Shapiro might have in mind.

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