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Cleveland Indians, free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion talking about multiyear deal
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - The Indians are negotiating with free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion about a multiyear deal.
The deal might not happen. It might fall apart in the days to come, but right now the talks have traction.
Encarnacion reportedly turned down an estimated four-year $80 million offer to stay with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have since added free agents Kendrys Morales on a three-year $33 million contract and Steve Pearce on two-year $12.5 million deal.
So Encarncacion isn't flying back to Toronto.
Last season Encarnacion hit .263 (158-for-702) with 42 homers and an AL-leading 127 RBI. But right now his market is shrinking.
The Yankees have already signed Matt Holliday for one year and $13 million, while Houston signed Carlos Beltran for one year and $16 million. Those were two logical landing spots for Encarnacion. Boston, however, still needs a replacement for DH David Ortiz, who retired after the Indians swept the Red Sox in the ALDS.
Chris Antonetti, Indians' director of baseball operations, said the team is prepared to offer a multiyear deal to a free agent. When asked if Encarnacion might be beyond the Indians' reach, Antonetti said, "You don't have to curb expectations. We are being exhaustive in exploring options to improve our position player club."
If the Indians can't get a deal done with Encarnacion, they could turn to Mike Napoli, who set career highs in homers (34) and RBI (101) for them last season. They have also been linked to Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind and Chris Carter among others.
Tribe casts wide net in search of offense
The Indians are still taking to Mike Napoli, but they've also shown interest in other free agents to fill the DH-first base role. A couple of them, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, have signed elsewhere.
"We are cognizant of the production Nap brought to our team first and foremost," said Antonetti. "But also the impact he had on our other players. We've been pretty consistent in talking about how much we value and appreciate Nap's contributions.
"If it's not Nap, we're still going to look for ways to improve our team."
Napoli earned a base salary of $7 million last season with $3 million more in incentives. He reached his last incentive in the final game of the regular season.
The Indians are in a win now mode. They won the AL Central and the AL pennant this postseason. They have a young core under control and one of the best managers in the game in Terry Francona.
Tribe still looking for ways to improve
The AL champion Indians head to the winter meetings on Sunday in need of a tweak here and there, but in good shape overall.
What club has always operated on a tight payroll, but it might not be as tight as it has been the past. They did reach the seventh game of the World Series and owner Paul Dolan finally found a limited partner in John Sherman.
One source said the Indians' postseason run could have brought the club close to $48 million in profits, an estimated of $6 million per home game.
Encarnacion, 33, has played parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues. He started his career with the Reds and spent the last 7 1/2 seasons with the Blue Jays. His average line over a 162 games is .266, 33 homers and 101 RBI.
Napoli and Carlos Santana formed a perfect match at DH and first base last season. Santana, like Napoli, set a career highs with 34 homers, 87 RBI and 89 runs.
Carlos Santana makes prediction come true
Carlos Santana not only made the final out of the Indians' pennant-clinching win Wednesday at Rogers Centre, he made a prediction come true.
If the Indians sign Encarnacion, he could form the same kind of combination with the switch-hitting Santana. Last year Encarnacion played 75 games at first base and 86 at DH.
The Indians would lose their No.1 pick in the June draft if the signed Encarnacion. The Blue Jays made him a qualifying offer worth $17.2 million.
"We place a lot of value on the pick," said Antonetti, concerning the 27th pick in the first round. "It's not something we take lightly."
GM Mike Chernoff, in explaining the value of the draft pick, said "The easy way of thinking about it is that pick is a person we are going to select. A couple of years ago we drafted Justus Sheffield right around there in the first round.
"That player had a lot of value to us once we got him. We have to determine how to value that in terms of future wins and things like that."
In other words, if the Indians forfeit the pick, they'd have to put a value on it. Then they could subtract that value from Encarnacion's contract.