Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos insisted that the decision to expose Encarnacion to outright waivers -- one day after optioning him to Triple-A Las Vegas -- was simply a procedural move aimed at clearing room on the team's 40-man roster. Over the next two business days, though, other clubs have the right to claim the third baseman.
"We realize that's one of the scenarios that could occur," Anthopoulos said. "But exploring the market and having our finger on the pulse, we feel pretty confident that he's going to clear."
By designating Encarnacion, the Blue Jays had the ability to vacate a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Scott Richmond, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list. Richmond is fully recovered from the right shoulder injury that flared up in the offseason, but he has a few issues to work out before finding his way to Toronto.
After reinstating Richmond from the disabled list, the Jays promptly optioned him to Class A Dunedin, where he was scheduled to start Monday. Anthopoulos noted that Richmond, who went 9-14 with a 5.52 ERA over the past two seasons for Toronto, would likely be promoted to Double-A New Hampshire for his next outing.
"He's been healthy for a few starts now," Anthopoulos said. "Now, I think it's just a matter of him getting sharp with his command and maybe getting his velocity up a little bit. But, from a health standpoint, he's fine. We just needed a bit more time to iron out how we were going to go ahead with who we were going to take off the 40-man."
That is where Encarnacion -- under contract for $4.75 million this season -- entered the picture. If Encarnacion is not claimed off waivers, the Blue Jays have a 10-day window during which they can either trade or release the third baseman, or sent him outright to the Minor Leagues.
The 27-year-old Encarnacion went 0-for-4 in a 9-6 loss to the Giants on Sunday, dropping his season average to .200 through 37 games for the Jays this season. He has battled left wrist and right shoulder issues this season, but Anthopoulos said Encarnacion is fully recovered from both.
After originally optioning Encarnacion to Triple-A on Sunday, Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays wanted to see better consistency at the plate and in the field from the third baseman. One day later, the Blue Jays GM said the club's plans for Encarnacion remained the same, even after designating him for assignment.
"With respect to our plans for Edwin, they haven't changed at all," Anthopoulos said. "It's just we're in a position that, because he's in the Minor Leagues and because of his salary, that we'll be able to clear that 40-man spot. We still expect him to go down, hopefully play well, swing the bat like we know he can and hopefully come back up here."
Anthopoulos spoke as if it was certain that Encarnacion would clear waivers.
"I think with the nature of discussions and dialogues with teams," Anthopoulos said, "and with respect to the performance and the salary of the player, I would say it's unlikely [that he gets claimed]. That's why we're fairly comfortable in saying that we're pretty confident that he will clear."
Anthopoulos also put to rest the notion that Encarnacion or his agent -- perhaps unhappy with the decision to option him to the Minors -- may have requested that the third baseman be designated for assignment by the Blue Jays in order to find him a Major League job with another team.
"Not at all," Anthopoulos said. "Really, if there was an opportunity there for a trade, that's something that we would explore on our own. We would not make roster moves or roster decisions based on any requests of an agent, or specifically a player, unless there were extenuating circumstances."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.