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CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed 1B/DH-R Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million contract. [12/22]

The list of the largest contract in franchise history for each team is, for the most part, a collection of bold moves and expensive bets. It begins with the Marlins’ $325 million monster deal for Giancarlo Stanton, skimming along past Alex Rodriguez’s blockbuster contract with the Yankees and only slightly less blockbuster-y contract with the Rangers. The Tigers’ $248 million move for Miguel Cabrera is close behind.

And at the very bottom, below more than two dozen other teams, is Cleveland in dead last with the relatively paltry $57 million they committed to Travis Hafner way back in 2007. At least, that was Cleveland’s largest-ever deal before Thursday. Now they have a new contract to take the title, one that’s big enough to move them from dead last on the list all the way up to … well, still last, but at least now tied for last with another team.

For an ownership group most often characterized by its stinginess, the $60 million deal for Encarnacion is perhaps only a modest step away from the team’s traditional thriftiness, but it’s a step that should be well worth making. Encarnacion will replace Mike Napoli for the defending American League champions, offering more power with a greater track record of health and consistency in the same right-handed-hitting first baseman/designated hitter slot.

Encarnacion is not without a few potential red flags like his age and limited defensive ability, but those can’t do too much to tarnish the fact that he’s the only player to hit more than 30 home runs in each of the past five seasons. Among all MLB hitters since 2012 his 193 homers trail only Chris Davis' 197 and no one else has as many as 180 during that five-year span.

Plus, those red flags are perhaps not so red as they may seem. Last season, at age 33, Encarnacion tied his career-high with 42 homers and the three-year deal he’s signed doesn’t leave much space for intense long-term complications. Meanwhile, his much-maligned defense at first base is no longer quite as bad as the nickname “E3” might indicate; the past few years have shown improvements that have upgraded him to fairly passable (or something like it) at the position.

At its simplest, the acquisition is a solid upgrade for a lineup that was already strong and that will be returning nearly all of its key pieces next year, plus the potential return of a healthy Michael Brantley. And a little more abstractly, it’s a sign that Cleveland is being proactive to win and keep winning, and they’re willing to pay—with money and draft picks—to do it.