The Indians have agreed to a sign top free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion to a 3-year, $60 million contract, according to a major-league source. The deal includes an option for a fourth season that can push its full value to $80 million, and does not include an opt-out clause.
The agreement was first reported by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
Encarnacion was widely regarded as the second-best free agent on this year’s market, behind Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The former Blue Jays slugger considered Toronto as his top choice, but initially turned down a 4-year, $80 million offer from the club and was forced to move on after the Jays signed both Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce to multi-year deals.
Encarnacion will replace Mike Napoli at first base for the Indians, giving the defending AL Champions a significant offensive boost at the position. The Indians, along with the Astros and Red Sox, were among the American League favorites before adding Encarnacion, but will now have one of the top lineups in the league with Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Francisco Lindor.
Encarnacion, who turns 34 in January, hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 homers and 127 RBI in his eighth and final season with the Blue Jays. He has established himself as one of the top offensive first baseman in the majors throughout his time in Toronto, being named to the AL All-Star team in three of the last four seasons.
Toronto was considered the favorite heading into the offseason, with the Red Sox, Astros and Yankees considered strong contenders as well. Each of those clubs made cheaper offensive additions instead of splurging on Encarnacion, leading clubs like the Indians, Athletics and Rangers to jump into the bidding late this month.
According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Oakland was the runner-up in the Encarnacion bidding after offering a 2-year, $50 million deal that included a first-year opt-out and a third-year club option. Texas was also heavily involved until the end of negotiations, and will now likely sign Napoli instead.