Merry Christmas, Cleveland.
The Indians just made the defending AL champions better, courtesy of one Scrooge of a marketplace. Edwin Encarnacion was the biggest Fantasy Baseball name to test that marketplace this offseason, but as with all bat-first corners this go-round, the offers were lacking.
And we all know his real-life value isn't as high as his Fantasy value. Defense matters in that realm, and with this signing, the Indians now have two first basemen (Carlos Santana being the other) who'd be better off at DH. Still, even the Fielding Bible thumpers out there would have to admit that three years, $60 million is surprisingly low for a first round-caliber hitter.
Oh yes, that's what I called him, and I did it because ... well, that's what he is. Over the last five years, Encarnacion has ranked third, fourth, seventh (injury-shortened), fourth and second among first basemen in Head-to-Head points leagues and fourth, fourth, sixth (again, injury-shortened), fourth and second in Rotisserie. He's never drafted quite that high because he's on the wrong side of 30, has unfavorable eligibility and isn't exactly an asset in batting average, but when it comes to the tenets of Moneyball -- power and plate discipline -- he's as reliable as it gets.
So will he still be? That's the big question, right? Progressive Field is more of a hitter's park than it gets credit for, but it's not the Rogers Centre. Plus, the Blue Jays are the organization that made Encarnacion the hitter he is today, which probably isn't a coincidence given their history of salvage jobs, with Jose Bautista serving as Exhibit A. Encarnacion played in Ohio once before (with the Reds), and it was nothing to write home about.
Honestly, it doesn't concern me that much. If he had signed with Oakland, let's say, which was hot on Cleveland's tail, or somewhere else with an enormous park, it might give me some pause. But I'd still say the biggest threat to Encarnacion's elite standing is simply the fact he'll be turning 34 in a couple weeks. And if that wasn't enough to scare me away with a mid-second round pick, neither is signing with Cleveland. It's a steep drop-off at first base after him, after all.
Nothing really changes for anyone else on the Indians. Encarnacion is simply taking the lineup spot of Mike Napoli, who had a nice run with them last year but is a free agent himself. Wherever he winds up, he won't be nearly as valuable as what the Indians have now. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, had already moved on, signing Kendrys Morales to what turned out to be not such a modest deal after all. He gets the benefit of playing in a hitter's park for the first time, but he won't be pushing second-round production, rest assured.