The defending American League champion Cleveland Indians did what they had to do to have a legitimate chance of getting back to the World Series when they inked Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million dollar deal with a fourth-year option Thursday. Combine that with Michael Brantley, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco all expected to be close to 100 percent and you have what could be a significantly improved team, especially if their young players continue to develop.
The Indians' initial plan was to just keep the team intact as it tried to re-sign Mike Napoli, but when the two sides couldn’t agree on years and dollars, the Indians started to monitor the market for Encarnacion, which inexplicably crashed after he turned down a four-year, $80 million dollar deal from the Blue Jays. When the bidding never picked up, the Indians were opportunistic. They could afford to be, thanks to significant postseason revenue, an increase in season ticket sales, new advertising deals and league revenue sharing. All of that allowed them to step up and steal one of the game’s best middle-of-the-order bats.
Now that the best free-agent bats have all signed, including Yoenis Cespedes with the Mets, Encarnacion with the Indians, Dexter Fowler with the Cardinals, Justin Turner with the Dodgers and Ian Desmond with the Rockies, now it’s time for the next-level free-agent hitters to find their homes. This group includes four sluggers: Mike Napoli, formerly of the Indians; Mark Trumbo, formerly of the Orioles; Jose Bautista, formerly of the Blue Jays; and Matt Wieters, another former Oriole.