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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.

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LlarryA
12/23
Has anyone gotten the parrot's take on moving from the shore of Lake Ontario to Lake Erie?
bhacking
12/23
Most of the problems for E3 in the past were related to throwing the ball, not catching it. He's fine at 1B. It's hard to look at this any other way than Toronto jumped too quickly and overpaid for Morales based on this deal and the other bats still unsigned. Morales is much worse defensively.
bhacking
12/23
And don't even get me started on signing Justin Smoak
mattyjames1
12/25
What's wrong with Smoak? Yeah he's not great at all vs lefties, but Morales sure is. I think the Jays are going to have a pretty deadly platoon going on, especially with Pearce available too. Smoak in my mind is one of the better defensive first basemen so he may actually be more of a late game sub than anything else. I think the drop off from Edwin to this platoon is likely about 2.5 wins. A quick glance at the projections shows the Jays to still be a mid 80 win team regardless of their first base options. I should note that I do love Edwin and I have his jersey (got it years ago because I have a thing for long last names on jerseys that require smaller font).
bhacking
12/29
What's wrong with Smoak? Negative career and 2016 VORP and WARP. 2016 -0.2 VORP and -2.8 WARP. Yes he can dig balls out of the dirt at first but he has no range and he's an extremely slow base runner (like Morales). Strikes out A LOT (112 times in just 299 AB's in '16).
mattyjames1
12/25
I don't think it's fair to judge this signing by Cleveland in relation to the deal Morales signed. I do believe the Jays got Morales on a fair deal. I also believe the Indians got a fair deal for Edwin. The weird thing I have yet seen discussed too much is that the Jays offered 4 years at 80M, which Edwin's team decided it could upgrade. The market decided otherwise and the 4/80M deal dried up. What I'm getting at is that both the Jays and Edwin completely misread the market. If the Jays had signed Edwin to their original offer I think they would very much regret the extra 20M and year on the contract. My rambling point: I think both TEAMS are happy. I think Edwin might be a little unhappy... but if he plays well it's not out of the question he can get another deal after his contract expires with Cleveland. Maybe all 3 parties will be happy with this situation 4 years from now.