Cleveland Indians: Could Edwin Encarnacion Be Headed to Cleveland?

The Cleveland Indians are one of the teams linked to free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Could the power hitter be headed to Cleveland?

The Cleveland Indians are the latest team on a list of organizations that are showing interest in free agent 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion. The news was brought up Monday morning by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Coming off a 2016 season in which he led the American League with 127 RBI for the Toronto Blue Jays, Encarnacion has drawn interest from numerous teams including the Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

Since 2012, Encarnacion has averaged 39 home runs and 110 RBI per season, making him one of the top available free agents going into this winter. While the asking price is expected to be very high, recent signings around the league may have driven the price down, but only slightly.

Encarnacion will likely desire a four to five-year contract. For the New York Yankees, who were rumored to be interested in Encarnacion, contract length led the team to pursue Matt Holliday over Encarnacion. The Yankees are currently rebuilding, so adding a piece like Encarnacion would not make sense at this time.

The Blue Jays recently signed first baseman Steve Pearce to a two-year, $12.5 million contract, likely ending the team’s interest in re-signing Encarnacion.

For the Indians, the story is much different. The financial limitation for the Tribe is what could hold the team back from signing the slugger. The four to five-year contract length would make perfect sense for the team – which figures to be competitive for at least that long. However, with the Indians already being over budget last season, Encarnacion would only dig the financial hole deeper.

The Indians, before any free agent signings, are looking at a nine-figure payroll next season – albeit just over the $100 million mark. Because of this, the Indians are not expected to be major players in top-level free agency.

With this is mind, it is important to remember that the Indians could likely be more apt to make a big signing after their World Series run. Seeing that the team came within one run of its first championship since 1948, it is obvious that it is as close as ever to breaking that drought. The addition of a player the caliber of Encarnacion would go far in putting the team over the final proverbial hump.

Encarnacion’s role on the team would be similar to that of Mike Napoli‘s. Paul Hoynes elaborated on this point in his article published on cleveland.com about the talks between the Indians and Encarnacion.

If the Indians sign Encarnacion, he could form the same kind of combination with the switch-hitting Santana. Last year Encarnacion played 75 games at first base and 86 at DH.

He also explains how the Indians should have more money to spend this offseason for two reasons: New limited partner John Sherman and the profit brought in from the postseason.

With this extra money, Tribe owner Paul Dolan could try to reinvest the capital into a player like Encarnacion, with the idea that he could assist the Indians back to the promised land, thus bringing in the more profit. It is also worth mentioning that the Indians have already far exceeded season ticket sales from a year ago, and single game attendance is expected to increase.

Realistically, the Indians would be better suited to pursue former Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland, or ex-Indians, now free agent, 1B/DH Mike Napoli. Along with this, the Indians are looking to add another bullpen piece or two – primarily of the left-handed variety.

With the strong core of players on the team already signed for the next several years, the Indians do not need to make any big signings or trades. However, the addition of a player of Encarnacion’s caliber would undoubtedly make the Indians the AL favorites, if they are not already.

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