Edwin Encarnacion’s eight-year stint with the Jays is over, as he has decided to move his talents to Cleveland. This leaves a gaping hole in the Jays lineup. During his six and a half seasons in Toronto, he accumulated 239 homers and 679 RBI while hitting for an average of .268. He reinvented his career when he made the switch to first base five seasons ago, as he began to play with more confidence. He has had a higher fielding average than the rest of the league at his position since he started playing 1B in 2011 — however, his defense is nothing to write home about.
Edwin will likely be replaced with Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales. Smoak was able to swat 14 homers with 34 RBI in just 299 at-bats, and with more plate appearances, he will be capable of cutting into the missing 42 homers and 127 RBI Edwin produced last season. Furthermore, Morales hit 30 homers with 93 RBI, which are closer to Edwin’s numbers, and with the move to a more hitter-friendly field, Morales may actually be able to replicate similar numbers. It is also important to note that right-handed hitters fare better at Rogers Centre, and Morales seems to hit the ball better from the left side, as his wRC+ is 115 hitting from the left and 109 from the right. As far as WAR goes, however, Edwin’s total through 11 seasons is 27.6, while Kendrys only has 8.4 in 10 years, and Smoak has a WAR of 0.2 through six years. In this sense, Edwin has left his old home with a gaping hole.
The Tribe, however, will be happy landing this heavy-hitting righty. Mike Napoli is yet to sign this offseason, so at this point Edwin will likely share time between first base and DH with Carlos Santana. The Indians ranked 10th in the AL with 185 homers last season, thus, Edwin’s bat will help with the lack of power in their lineup. Moreover, Encarnacion’s 3.9 WAR will make him the third-most valuable hitter (tied with Jose Ramirez) in the lineup.
A three-year contract locks Edwin in Cleveland until age 36, but the 33-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, as his WAR has hovered around 4 since turning 29. His cumulative WAR was only 7.4 in his first six seasons, compared to a WAR of 20.2 in his past five. The three-year contract still seems most favorable to Cleveland, as, if he sees a drop in numbers next season, he will have a year to recover, and if he is unable to they can drop him in 2020. For Edwin, if the Tribe is not able to replicate the success they had last season, he is stuck watching his prime go down the drain. However, with the addition of Andrew Miller, and the experience the pitching rotation gained from their run in the postseason this past October, there is no reason the Indians should not produce the same success.
So, Edwin’s new home may be a breath of fresh air for the slugger, as his power will not be outshone by a lineup of heavy hitters. And he is still with a team that gets on base a lot, and a pitching staff that has the capability of being one of the best in the majors. Additionally, playing half of his games at Progressive Field will not hurt, as he should be able to hit a few moonshots over the shallow eight-foot wall in right field.
At any rate, Edwin’s acquisition has pushed the Indians into being arguably the projected best team for the 2017 season, and it should be a cake walk to finish first in the AL Central, especially compared to the AL East Edwin is used to. He might have found a home more suitable than the one across the border.