- Cleveland's financial status may make a deal with the slugging first baseman/DH problematic, but the team has other ways it can address its offensive concerns.
This story originally appeared on FoxSports.com.
Edwin Encarnacion is a perfect fit for the Indians. But barring a total collapse of his market, it’s difficult to see how the Indians would be a perfect fit for him.
Last week, I wrote about how Cleveland is in a stronger financial position than in the past due to its extra income from the postseason and the recent arrival of a new ownership partner, John Sherman. The Indians, though, do not plan to change the way they operate, according to major league sources; they ranked 28th in the majors in home attendance last season, ahead of only the Athletics and the Rays, and their market remains a challenge.
So, the idea that Cleveland could offer Encarnacion a version of Yoenis Cespedes’s first free-agent contract with the Mets—three years, $75 million, with a one-year opt-out—is probably far-fetched.
The best way for the Indians to land Encarnacion probably is on a one-year, high-dollar deal. But the Blue Jays made Encarnacion a qualifying offer, and Cleveland surely does not want to sacrifice the 26th pick in the draft for a player it would keep for only one year.
Encarnacion, likewise, would figure to have little interest in a one-year offer. True, he would be an unrestricted free agent next off-season; a player, under the new collective-bargaining agreement, cannot receive more than one qualifying offer in his career. But surely, Encarnacion would prefer to avoid going back on the market entering his age-35 season in 2018.
Mike Napoli, who hit a career-high 34 homers for the Indians last season, continues to look like the most logical choice for Cleveland among the righthanded-hitting first base/DH types; Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista are also attached to draft picks, while Chris Carter is not.
Then again, what if the Rangers sign Napoli? There would be no obvious suitors for Encarnacion other than the Indians and possibly the Rockies, unless new clubs jumped in.
Cleveland also wants to add an outfielder, but it can stay patient in that market as well. The righthanded hitter they need to re-sign or replace, Rajai Davis, had only a .670 OPS against lefthanded pitching during the regular season (though he did hit a rather memorable home run off Cubs lefty Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the World Series).
Tyler Naquin led the Indians in on-base percentage last season (minimum 300 at-bats) at .372, and club officials are confident with him at any outfield spot. The return of leftfielder Michael Brantley from a shoulder injury would be a boost; Abraham Almonte, who was ineligible for the postseason because of an 80-game ban for a failed PED test last season, will be back; and two of the team's top outfield prospects, Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen, are centerfielders, though neither is ready yet.
A platoon partner for the lefthanded-hitting Naquin in center probably would be the best fit, but the Indians can be flexible in their approach.
Non-Waiver Deadline Could Be Wild
All those potential trades that are not getting done and might not get done before Opening Day could make the July 31 non-waiver deadline even more active than usual. Consider how many big names are already available:
• Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
• Chris Archer, RHP, Rays
• Jose Quintana, LHP, White Sox
• J.D. Martinez, RF, and Ian Kinsler, 2B, Tigers
• Sonny Gray, RHP, Athletics
• Brian Dozier, 2B, Twins
Some of those players figure to be dealt this off-season (Gray, somewhat surprisingly, has generated little interest, sources say). But some will open the season with their respective clubs, leading to more speculation.
The Royals will remain a source of interest, even if they move one of their centerfielders, Lorenzo Cain or Jarrod Dyson, and‚ less likely, one of their starting pitchers, lefthander Danny Duffy or righty Yordano Ventura. Some of Kansas City's other potential free agents, notably first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, likely will be in play if the team sputters in the first half.
Assessing The Price For Holland
Looking for an idea of what agent Scott Boras might seek in a contract for free-agent reliever Greg Holland, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2015 and missed all of last season? History serves as a guide.
Righthander Eric Gagne, represented by Boras, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Rangers after pitching a combined 15 1/3 innings in 2005 and ’06 due to elbow and back surgeries. Righthander Brian Wilson, represented by Dan Lozano, signed a two-year, $18.5 million contract with the Dodgers in December 2013 after making a strong return from his second TJ operation the previous August. Righthander Luke Hochevar, also represented by Boras, signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Royals in December 2014, nine months after his Tommy John.
And how did those deals turn out? Gagne pitched well for the Rangers (2.16 ERA in 33 1/3 IP) and less well after getting traded to the Red Sox (6.75 ERA, 18 2/3 IP) at that year's non-waiver deadline. Wilson was designated for assignment with one year and $9.5 million remaining on his contract. Hochevar rebounded from a difficult start in ’15 to pitch well in the second half, only to undergo surgery for thoracic-outlet syndrome in August 2016.
Ken Rosenthal is a senior writer for FoxSports.com and a field reporter for MLB on Fox.