The Cleveland Indians chose to part with Mike Napoli in favor of Edwin Encarnacion, leading some to be frustrated with the loss of a fan favorite.
2016 was a fun year to be a Cleveland Indians fan. So many players had breakout seasons for the team, all contributing to the overall feat of making it to the World Series.
Mike Napoli was a major part of the team’s success, having a career year in 2016. His 34 home runs and 101 RBI gave the Indians a legitimate power hitter for the first time in a long time, and he provided fans with some flashbacks to power not seen since the 1990s.
But after just one season, the Indians are moving on from Napoli in favor of Edwin Encarnacion. The move makes sense as Encarnacion is an upgrade over Napoli, at least on paper, but some fans may be upset about the loss of a fan favorite.
It is not uncommon to see fans lament the loss of Napoli on social media, as he did serve as the veteran leader of the team in 2016. But when it comes to winning a championship, the front office cannot refuse a roster upgrade just because a player is a fan favorite.
Giving Encarnacion $20 million a year for three years leaves no room for the Indians to sign any other free agents to significant deals. And no matter the money Napoli was looking for, bringing him back with both Encarnacion and Carlos Santana on the roster just wouldn’t make sense.
The problem with Napoli was his play in the postseason. His one postseason home run, coupled with 21 strikeouts, made him a non-factor for much of October and November. He was never able to come up with a big hit, and went 0-5 with three strikeouts in Game 7 of the World Series when he was needed most.
Ultimately, baseball is a business. A front office must determine how best to allocate the team’s money to build the most competitive team possible. And when Encarnacion became a realistic option, passing on him would have been foolish, even if the move came at the expense of Napoli, who was coming off the best season of his career.
So fans should be happy the Indians made the upgrade. While some may miss the parties at Napoli’s in 2017, there should be joy in knowing that the franchise is committed to bringing a World Series title back to Cleveland.