In quite possibly one of the more important off-season in Cleveland Indians history, the Indians had the task of finding a way to improve a team that was one swing away from a World Series Championship. The Indians for over a month decided to lay low and not get involved in the Hot Stove of the Winter Meetings, hoping it would pay off. I don’t think any of us were ready for the early Christmas present on December 22nd. The Indians in a masterful show of strategy and playing the market perfectly signed 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion to a 3 year $60 million contract with an option for a 4th year that would make it 4 years, $80 million. To Indians fans this was a dream come true, the Dolan's finally after years of not living up to their word of, “When we win, we will spend” and not only did they spend, but they acquired one of the premier power hitters in all of Baseball. In a matter of only about a week and a half, the Indians season ticket sales are now up to 10,000 season ticket holders. It was a game changing move that shows the fans the Indians run to the World Series isn’t going to be a fluke and the Indians Ownership is serious to win a World Series for the city of Cleveland for the first time since 1948. And while there’s a lot to be excited about, there are still 2 major questions that remain from all of this.
The 2 questions that remain from this signing are:
1. Are the Indians done making moves?
2. What is the real impact of having Edwin Encarnacion to this lineup?
Now to the question of are the Indians done making moves, I’m not quite sure they’re done just yet. The Indians still have a major hole at CF as Rajai Davis is still a Free Agent. The Indians could easily go with a Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte in a platoon OF. They could also easily go with Top Prospect OF Bradley Zimmer to start the year in Cleveland (highly unlikely). The Indians currently have Naquin, Almonte, Guyer and Chisenhall as their OF as it stands today (not counting on Brantley yet). Whether or not the Indians will be able to sign someone or even trade for an upgrade remains to be seen.
With that said, the Indians already got their cleanup guy in Encarnacion, but what is the impact of having him in their lineup. It’s fairly similar to the Mike Napoli presence in the cleanup role, but to a much bigger extent. Encarnacion unlike Napoli, does a great job in cutting down his strikes out and drawing walks, which makes you think what the possibilities are for having Encarnacion and Carlos Santana batting back to back every day. It could potentially cause nightmares to opposing pitching staffs. If the Indians can get Michael Brantley back healthy and continue to develop their young stars in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, the Indians could have one of the more lethal and yet balanced offenses in Major League Baseball.
Since the deal of Swisher and Bourn to the Braves in August of 2015, Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have been methodically plotting to make their move. The Indians talent finally came together as planned in 2016, and the Indians knowing the Swisher and Bourn contracts were fully off the books this offseason, knew they had the money and were prepared to strike like sharks in the water. They played the market perfectly and didn’t waver when they could’ve. Remember they were very much in the Mitch Moreland “sweepstakes”, a guy who fit what they wanted defensively (AL 2016 1B Gold Glove winner) and had a good bat, but the Indians laid low and let Boston take him. They could’ve easily gone after Kendrys Morales, but let Toronto pay up for him. They let all their possible competition for Encarnacion almost panic and make a move for the sake of it and they knew this possibility was real. I mean let’s be real, while it would’ve been a bummer, nobody would’ve blamed the Indians for just bringing back Mike Napoli, but instead they swung for the fences and they hit it out of the ballpark. This game of chess the Indians Front Office played to get Encarnacion to Cleveland proves why the Indians have one of, if not the best Front Office in all of Baseball.
While some reporters in Cleveland shook this off as nothing more than just a dream, remember who told you here at TripleThreatCLE that the Indians had money to spend and that a big signing could be in the cards if the Indians played it right.
2017 will bring some new Indians articles this year, including Series Matchups during the Season. I look forward to 2017 being just as magical of a year if not more than last year. Something just tells me, we’re in for another wild roller coaster ride this year and the Indians aren’t even done making moves yet. By the way we’re around 40 days until Pitchers and Catchers report to Arizona!