When the rumors first surfaced at the winter meetings that the Cleveland Indians were interested in slugger Edwin Encarnacion, we, like most, were skeptical.
Agents float these rumors to drive up the price of a player, and when Encarnacion turned down a four year, $80 million deal from the Blue Jays, believing he could get more, it seemed like that was what was happening.
However, you don’t know the impact of getting to the seventh game of the World Series does for ownership and the front office. It’s a great feeling to play into the end of October (or November in 2016), and have the national media focused on your team.
Obviously, the Dolan family and Chris Antonetti enjoyed that experience and want to do it again.
The money made during the post-season obviously made this possible, and for the few fans questioning the move, remember, the Tribe didn’t have to cut into its farm system to add the big bat. It’s just money, and as long as Encarnacion maintains the production he has shown the last five years, it’s cash well spent.
This isn’t a Nick Swisher/Michael Bourn signing. Here are Encarnacion’s numbers over the last five seasons:
2012: 42 HR, 110 RBI, 941 OPS
2013: 36 HR, 104 RBI, 904 OPS
2014: 34 HR, 98 RBI, 901 OPS
2015: 39 HR, 111 RBI, 929 OPS
2016: 42 HR, 127 RBI, 886 OPS
He hit 22 dingers away from Rogers Centre in ’16 and had an OPS of 834. His OPS on the road was over 900 in 2015.
The only stat that is concerning is his strikeouts were over 100 for only the second time in his career, fanning 138 times. On the other hand, he walked a career high 87 times.
The strikeouts are still almost 60 less than Mike Napoli, and as for his road numbers, remember that Progressive Field was one of the best hitter’s parks in the AL last season.
As a comparison, here were Swisher’s numbers for the five years before the Indians signed him after the 2012 season:
2008: 24 HR, 69 RBI, 743 OPS
2009: 29 HR, 82 RBI, 869 OPS
2010: 23 HR, 89 RBI, 870 OPS
2011: 23 HR, 85 RBI, 822 OPS
2012: 24 HR, 93 RBI, 837 OPS
As you can see, Encarnacion’s worst year in that span is better than Swisher’s best season. Plus, we always thought Swisher was miscast as a clean up hitter, whereas Encarnacion is the prototype #4 hitter.
He appreciated what Mike Napoli did for the 2016 Tribe, but let’s face it, it was very unlikely he would match the numbers he put up. Players just don’t have career years at age 34 and then continue at that pace for a few more years.
Besides, Napoli’s OPS was 800 last year. Encarnacion is simply a much better hitter than him.
The Indians are officially going for it in 2017, and yesterday’s signing has fans in northeast Ohio are excited. The team’s six pack ticket plan was sold out today. Season ticket sales have increased.
Spring training can’t come soon enough. The Indians gave their players and fans an early Christmas present.