As many Sox fans were happily gazing upon the White Sox presents they got for Christmas on Wednesday evening (this writer included, gazing lovingly upon the white ’83 throwback jersey now hanging in my closet), White Sox GM Rick Hahn gave Sox fans, and the roster, another present, in the form of Edwin Encarnacion.
The move makes it all but certain the Sox will make a run at winning the AL Central title in 2020, as management believes the roster is strong enough to win now. DH was one of the areas Hahn targeted for improvement this offseason, and the Sox are hoping Encarnacion has the same effect as Nelson Cruz had on the Minnesota Twins last year, when Cruz had a career year, hitting 41 dingers for the 2019 AL Central champs.
Earlier additions to the roster were as much about 2020 as they were about the future, since Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel were signed to multi-year deals. But Encarnacion’s deal is all about 2020, as he signed a one-year deal for $12 million, with a club option for 2021 also valued at $12 million, sources told ESPN.
A one-year deal for a soon-to-be 37 year old makes sense, and if he does well, then the Sox pick up his option for ’21 and reload for another run at the top of the division. He figures to add some pop from the DH spot that was sorely missing. Sox designated hitters registered an OPS of .648 in 2019, worst in the junior circuit. It was suggested by Hahn that Grandal could be part of a platoon at DH with Jose Abreu, James McCann and Zack Collins, but he left open the idea to adding a more permanent DH to the lineup. This achieves that goal.
In each of the last 8 seasons, he’s hit at least 32 home runs in all of them. He only played 109 games last season split between the Yankees and Mariners, and still hit 34 dingers.
The other tidbit that should excite Sox fans about Encarnacion: he’s played post-season baseball in each of the last five seasons. A move like this isn’t about extending the window of contention by a couple years. This is about kicking that window open now.
Merry Christmas, Sox fans. Here’s hoping we get post-season baseball on the South Side in 2020.