It was the Christmas present every Indians fan wanted. We all wrote it down on our list:
Please sign Edwin Encarnacion for the Cleveland Indians.
Suitably-excited Tribe fan
And guess what? Our wish came true, and just before Christmas Day Edwin agreed to join the American League pennant winners in their battle to once again reach the World Series, and go that one step further and win the damned thing.
In a morning press conference today at Progressive Field, the Indians officially announced the signing of first baseman Encarnacion to a three-year deal, the biggest free agent acquisition in recent memory.
It's positively unheard of to see a small-market club like the Indians make such a splash in free agency, but splash they did on Edwin. He has been handed the largest contract in franchise history, reportedly raking in $65 million in guaranteed money. His contract also includes a $5 million buyout clause for a fourth-year team option worth $25 million. If that option were to be picked up, Encarnacion's contract could reach as high as $80 million in total.
That's a lot of money for a 34 year-old slugger (his birthday is this Saturday), but the Indians did just add one of the most powerful right-handed hitters in the game. In 2016 Encarnacion had a battling line of .263./.357/.529 (BA/OBP/SLG) with an outstanding OPS+ of 133. The Dominican Republic native clubbed 42 home runs, drew 87 walks, scored 99 runs and 127 RBIs last season for the Blue Jays. He spent close to 8 years in Toronto altogether, and his slugging percentage didn't dip below .500 in the past 5 years; he also hit at least 30 homers in that time span, topping the 40 homer mark twice.
Encarnacion will likely split time between first base and DH with Carlos Santana (who will stay in Cleveland after his $12 million team option was picked up for 2017). Our new number 10 (Yan Gomes has swapped to number 7) will replace Mike Napoli as the team's premier power hitter.
Some might view this acquisition as a risky move for the Tribe but given that the deal is only for three years, it's not as risky as it could have been, especially considering Encarnacion's offensive output in recent years. The acquisition of Encarnacion was made with the "win now" mentality in mind and the Indians have every right to adopt this approach coming off the back of an incredible 2016. I can't wait to see him in Spring Training and together with Santana, Lindor, Kipnis and a healthy Brantley, the AL Central should be very afraid.