The Cleveland Indians gave Edwin Encarnacion a record deal, meaning his play will be the focus of all Indians fans in 2017.
After weeks of rumors, the Cleveland Indians made a splash in free agency Thursday night by signing Edwin Encarnacion to a multi-year deal.
The deal is the largest in franchise history, but the team was due to make a major move after getting so close to tasting a championship for the first time since 1948.
The guaranteed money may not be a lot in cities like Boston, New York or Los Angeles, but this is a major move for the Indians. The team is effectively committing to Encarnacion for the next three seasons as the focal point of the lineup, although smart moves over the past few seasons have nearly the entire 2016 roster in Cleveland for the next several seasons.
Regardless, Encarnacion will have to continue hitting at his regular pace for fans to consider this deal a success. His home runs will be the major focus, as he will be expected to reach or eclipse the mark of 34 set by Mike Napoli in 2016. With Encarnacion essentially being Napoli’s replacement, the numbers must be an upgrade from what Napoli did in his one season in Cleveland.
But while regular season numbers are important, this team is expected to once again compete for a World Series title, meaning Encarnacion’s true value may not be realized until the postseason. Just look at how the hype surrounding Napoli died in October and November as evidence of how perceptions can change surrounding a player who so many rallied around during the regular season.
So while a regular season slump by Encarnacion may cause some fans with an agenda to say signing him was a bad move, it won’t matter if the Indians make the postseason. If they don’t, that’s another story. But given they are back, the newest Cleveland Indian will show his value in October.
So while some will want to pick apart every game in 2017, we must all remember to take it one game at a time with Encarnacion. He will face the normal pressure of signing a big contract, but he is a great enough hitter that he should be able to work past it fast. Also, this is not a $300 million deal that will lead to insane pressure.
For now, fans should be excited about this deal. It signals that the team is committed to a championship from ownership on down, which is not something that can be said of the Indians for the past few decades. But this is Cleveland in 2016, when anything is possible.