Encarnacion Makes Indians Debut as Tribe Formally Announces Signing

In a world dominated by social media, it is difficult to keep anything a secret. Because of this, the cat was out of the bag two weeks ago that the Cleveland Indians had caught a big bird.

After some delay, the Tribe formally announced the signing of free agent bat Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year deal with a club option for a fourth season on Thursday morning in a press conference from Progressive Field.

In a corresponding move, the team also announced that left-handed pitcher Edwin Escobar, claimed off of waivers this offseason from the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been designated for assignment to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Encarnacion.

The announcement ended any remaining doubt among Clevelanders who may have been waiting for the other shoe to drop on the proposed signing. Encarnacion arrived in town on Wednesday to complete his physical and fans in attendance at the next door Quicken Loans Arena for the matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night were treated to the sight of the slugging first baseman and designated hitter sitting court side and later displayed on the gigantic scoreboard during the contest.

The news was announced Thursday morning from Progressive Field as Encarnacion and Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti met with the media.

Encarnacion - Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Encarnacion – Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The 33-year-old Encarnacion, who will turn 34 on Saturday, just completed his 12th big league season and is coming off of a third All-Star season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He matched a career-high with 42 home runs and established new personal bests for games played (160), plate appearances (702), at bats (601), runs scored (99), hits (158), walks (87), sacrifice flies (8), and runs batted in (127), the latter of which was tied with retiring Boston DH David Ortiz for the top mark in the American League in 2016.

The numbers were no aberration for Encarnacion, who has become one of the top sluggers in the game over the last five seasons. He has hit no fewer than 34 homers and 98 RBI in one season over the last half decade, and those numbers came in just 128 games during the 2014 season. That low water mark nearly matched the output of exiting Indians first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli, who hit 34 homers and drove in 101 runs in a career year last season.

Encarnacion has been one of the top power threats in baseball since 2012, his third full season in the Blue Jays organization. With 193 homers over the last five years, he trails only Baltimore’s Chris Davis (197) in that span. His 550 RBI are second to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who has 569. He also ranks fourth in slugging percentage with a .544 mark and sixth in OPS with a .912 figure.

He is expected to split time with Carlos Santana at the first base and designated hitter positions this coming season. Last year, he appeared in 75 games at first base (74 starts) with a .997 fielding percentage and two errors and made 86 starts at DH.

He entered the pro game in 2000 when he was selected by the Texas Rangers in the ninth round of the June amateur draft out of high school. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds the following year and made his Major League debut for the club in 2005 while working almost exclusively as a third baseman. After mixed results over parts of five seasons in southern Ohio, he was dealt to the Blue Jays, where he remained for the next eight seasons, with the exception of a three-week period in the 2010 offseason when he was claimed on waivers by Oakland, but the Athletics released him and he re-signed with the Blue Jays.

In addition to his selection to the AL All-Star team this past season, he was also a member of the squad in 2013 and again in 2014.

A press release from the Indians did not stipulate the financial components of Encarnacion’s contract, which is believed to guarantee at least $60-65 million over the first three years of the contract. An option year for the 2020 season is expected to have a $5 million buyout but, if picked up, would put his net salary over the four years of the agreement at $80 million.

Encarnacion will donate $100,000 annually over the course of his contract to various organizations in Cleveland and in his native Dominican Republic, according to a press release from the organization.

He will wear the number 10 with the Indians, a number he has worn since 2011 with Toronto. Yan Gomes, who has worn the number since debuting with Cleveland in 2013, will switch to the number 7, last worn by Collin Cowgill in 2016.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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