The Cleveland Indians came into spring training at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona, with a renewed sense of resolve when they recognized ownership’s commitment to winning now after the franchise came up one victory short of its first World Series Championship since1948.
Ownership not only brought all but one of their arbitration-eligible players back for 2017, but added a middle-of-the-order hitter in Edwin Encarnacion in what turned out to be the richest free-agent contract ever awarded to a player by the Indians.
“He’s a great player,” outfielder Michael Brantley said. “We’ve played against him for a number of years. He’s a big right-handed bat, and he’s a great teammate as well. He’s fitting well in the locker room already. He’s a quiet guy, but he goes about his work and gets his job done. I’m excited to be with him all year.”
Encarnacion, 33, signed a three-year contract with the Indians, who hold a club option for the 2020 season at the end of the deal.
In 12 years at the Major League level, Encarnacion has hit .266 with 1,439 hits in 5,409 at-bats in 1,513 career games. Of those 1,439 hits, 629 were for extra bases, including 311 doubles and 310 home runs. Also, Encarnacion has driven in 942 runs, scored another 829 and drawn 662 walks in his career.
“You always want a deep lineup, and by deep, you mean how far back one through nine it goes where there’s still a threat to the pitcher,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “If there’s a break for them, it might be in the back of the order, and you look at ours, there’s no break.
“Adding Edwin gives us that thump in the middle that Nap (Mike Napoli) gave us last year a little bit and even more so now because Edwin’s been doing it for years and is one of the best in the league. It’s almost an intimidation thing. With one swing of the bat, we know that he can change ball games. We know some guys just need to get on base for him and he’ll do the rest because he’s been proven to do that stuff.”
Encarnacion spent the last eight years of his Major League career with the Toronto Blue Jays. He made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005, and spent four full seasons with them before being traded to the Blue Jays during the 2009 campaign.
During his final year with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion hit .263 (158 for 601) with 34 doubles, 42 home runs and 127 runs batted in over 160 games. He set career highs with the 158 hits, 99 runs scored, 76 extra-base hits, 127 RBI and 318 total bases. The 42 round-trippers matched his single-season career best.
“It was amazing,” catcher Yan Gomes said. “You could see the impact he’s had on Toronto. When I was there, he was unbelievable. Till this day, I still talk about some of the numbers he was putting up in certain situations.
“You just don’t hear about it, and now, having him on our side, I think, is going to motivate other guys to learn from him and just do what he does, especially a couple guys in the middle of the order. I don’t think they need any kind of motivation, but I think it’s just going to be even better.”
© 2017 WKYC-TV