Are we looking at a new era on the corner of Ontario and Carnegie?
Rumors out of baseball’s annual winter meetings have the Cleveland Indians talking to the agents of free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion about coming to the Tribe on a multi-year contract.
Encarnacion is one of the game’s premier sluggers. He led the American League in runs batted in last season, and his OPS hasn’t been below 886 since 2011. His lowest home run total over the last five years was 34.
In short, he is an upgrade, at least on the field, from the player who filled his position in 2016.
According to reports, the Indians are one of three teams considered favorites to sign him, along with Boston and Texas, so it should still be considered a long shot for him to join the American League champions.
It has been reported that the Tribe paid a very handsome profit from last season’s playoff run, and remember that John Sherman was brought in as vice chairman and minority owner last summer, so it is very possible that Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have some extra cash to spend this winter.
And obviously, if you lose the World Series in game seven, and in extra innings, you are in win now mode.
If ever there was a time to throw a little caution to the wind and “go for it”, it is the 2017 season.
Especially when it appears that your competition in the AL Central are in flux. The White Sox look to be in sell mode. The Tigers are aging and have been said to be interested in lowering payroll. The Royals have several key players eligible for free agency after the ’17 season. The Twins lost 100 games a year ago, and shouldn’t be a factor next season.
That doesn’t mean the Indians’ front office will go crazy, handing out huge amounts of cash on long term deals to players decidedly on the downside of their careers.
If the team is able to strike a deal with Encarnacion, we would image a two or three year deal, as he will turn 34 years old in January. Mike Napoli is a year older, and hasn’t shown the consistency in his career as Encarnacion.
Also, the reason Cleveland can even think about this is the low amount of money committed to their starting pitching staff, which is a sink hole for most other major league teams.
Heck, the Dodgers yesterday gave Rich Hill, who was pitching in an independent league in 2015, $48 million over three years. The Tribe doesn’t have to commit that kind of cash to their rotation.
Even if the Indians don’t reach an agreement with Encarnacion, this sends a signal that the front office is ready to spend money on the right player and in the right situation. That’s all fans want, and it should keep the momentum from last October going for the local baseball team.
So, the Indians may make a big splash this off-season, something not thought possible a week ago. Getting this close to a World Series title for fueled this.
It could also mean that the Antonetti led front office is more aggressive than the Mark Shapiro led one. There could have been many reasons for Shapiro’s conservativism, but we doubt he makes the Andrew Miller trade, and it doesn’t seem signing a big time free agent is something he would have done either.
Right now, circumstances have the Cleveland Indians in a win now situation. It’s been 20 years since we could say that.