As first reported on Thursday evening by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and MLB Network, the Cleveland Indians have reached an agreement with free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion. The club has not confirmed.
Fresh off a date with the Chicago Cubs in a World Series for the ages, the Indians were looking to inject some right-handed power into their lineup this offseason. Fueled by the club’s subtraction of Mike Napoli — who the team lost due to free agency — Cleveland targeted a younger and more prolific bat to take his place.
The Indians’ search concluded with Encarnacion.
Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Indians and Encarnacion have agreed on a three-year, $60 million deal with a $20 million club option for a fourth year. If the Indians opt to not exercise the option — one that would be for the 2020 season — they will buyout Encarnacion for $5 million. If the deal is sealed, it will be the largest in free-agent signing in Indians history, surpassing the four-year, $56 million contract Nick Swisher received in December of 2012.
Encarnacion, who will turn 34 years old on January 7, destroyed opposing pitchers throughout his eight-year career with the Toronto Blue Jays, especially in 2016, a year the powerful batter eclipsed several career highs. With 42 home runs, 128 runs batted in, and a .263/.357/.529 slash-line across 160 games, Encarnacion helped guide the Blue Jays to the American League Championship Series. To get to the ALCS, the Blue Jays first knocked off the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card Games, one that will forever be linked to Encarnacion.
With the Indians, Encarnacion figures to settle toward the middle of the lineup, where he would be cushioned by Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Jose Ramirez, and possibly Michael Brantley, if his offseason rehab continues seamlessly.
Considering the subtractions the Chicago White Sox have made, the supposed willingness of the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers to part ways with some of their premier players, and the current state of the Minnesota Twins, the American League Central Division title may reign in Cleveland once again in 2017.