On Thursday night, the Cleveland Indians and now-former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal, with a $5 million buyout and $25 million option for the 2020 season. The Cleveland Indians were viewed as a World Series contender before this move with a stout starting rotation and elite bullpen, so chances are the rest of the league will put the Red Sox and Indians neck and neck at the top of the American League to start the 2017 season.
While the Tribe are limited financially, and that is putting it lightly, with the departure of Mike Napoli, adding a middle of the order bat was a necessary evil. Encarnacion will turn 34 years old in January, which is the most logical reason as to why teams were not fawning over one of the best power hitters in the game. Last season, Encarnacion hit .263 with 42 home runs and 127 RBI with the Blue Jays. Encarnacion reportedly declined a four-year, $80 million extension with the Blue Jays, who subsequently signed Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, effectively ending any hope of a reunion in Toronto.
The acquisition of Encarnacion has a major impact on the Boston Red Sox, and not just because they will be vying for the best record in the American League now with the Tribe.
Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox ownership group missed a major opportunity to ease the pain of losing David Ortiz to retirement when they decided to not pursue Encarnacion. The Red Sox were keen on staying below the $195 million luxury tax threshold, as this would be the third straight year Boston would be over it and an ensuing penalty would occur.
I was holding out hope that the Red Sox may bite the bullet and sign Encarnacion to show fans they were really going for another World Series run, especially after the acquisition of Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg. Unfortunately, Boston decided to trade Clay Buchholz and his $13.5 million option, which put them somewhere in between $180 million and $190 million, depending on which national media talking head you listen to. To be fair, with the money acquired after trading Buchholz, the Red Sox could theoretically pick up a bat in-season if they deem it necessary, but there is no shot a player like Encarnacion will be available at the Trade Deadline.
This is just my opinion, but I think the Red Sox are undervaluing the impact David Ortiz had on this team for the past decade. The Red Sox did not need to worry about going out onto the free agent market and snagging a middle of the order bat because of David Ortiz. Instead of throwing a ton of money on a three or four hitter, the Red Sox were able to focus on their starting rotation, which included names such as Curt Schilling (who should be in the Hall of Fame and you're an idiot if you think otherwise), Josh Beckett, and John Lackey.
Now, there is a chance that players like Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Andrew Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia, and even Xander Bogaerts could get exposed at the top of the order because the opposing pitcher knows they will not have to face David Ortiz anymore. The offense will clearly be weaker, but the bigger question is by how much?
Acquiring Edwin Encarnacion would eliminate all of these question marks in the batting order and would make the Red Sox a true super team.
The Red Sox have had a fantastic offseason, but balking on Encarnacion could prove to be a fatal mistake come October.