The White Sox’ offseason spending spree continued Wednesday, with the club reportedly agreeing to terms with free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion on a one-year, $12 million contract. Per Yancen Pujols of El Caribe, who was the first reporter to break the news of the signing, the agreement includes an $11 million salary for 2020 and a $1 million signing bonus. Pujols also noted that the deal contains a club option for 2021 worth $12 million. The veteran first baseman, who turns 37-years-old in a few weeks, was arguably the top power hitter left on the open market. He’s expected to serve as the White Sox’ everyday option at designated hitter and a run-producing middle-of-the-order presence in a vastly improving lineup.
On the heels of an offseason trade to the rebuilding Mariners, Encarnacion belted a junior circuit-leading 21 round-trippers in 289 plate appearances before being jettisoned to the Yankees on June 15. Despite relocating to a certifiable hitter's paradise, his over-the-fence power evaporated almost entirely and his overall offensive output cratered as he posted a lackluster .249/.325/.531 triple-slash line with 13 homers across 197 plate appearances over the final three-plus months of the regular season. A fractured wrist, which sidelined him for a month after he was hit by a pitch in early-August, certainly played a significant role in his struggles during that closing stretch. If he’s healthy, Encarnacion remains one of the most reliable power sources in fantasy baseball.
From a fantasy perspective, Encarnacion’s natural light-tower raw power and the current composition of the major-league baseball itself, should enable the veteran slugger to eclipse the 30-homer threshold in virtually any ballpark. Obviously, landing in Guaranteed Rate Field with the White Sox’ rapidly improving supporting cast should provide a boost to his counting stats. It would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of a late-career renaissance, but Encarnacion’s trademark three-category masher -- power plus counting stats -- profile has become ubiquitous in the modern game. He’s also becoming increasingly brittle as he enters the twilight of his career. He’s still worthy of a late-round investment in mixed leagues, but fantasy owners should temper their expectations. Encarnacion used to be a blue-chip stock, but he’s become an exponentially riskier investment entering the 2020 campaign.
The White Sox have been one of the busiest teams in the free agent landscape this offseason as they aim to compete in the AL Central next year. In addition to re-signing veteran stalwart Jose Abreu to a three-year, $50 million extension, they handed catcher Yasmani Grandal the richest free agent contract -- four years, $75 million -- in franchise history and also inked southpaw Dallas Keuchel to a three-year, $55.5 million pact last weekend. They’ve also been extremely active on the trade frontier, taking a low-risk gamble on uber-talented Rangers’ outfielder Nomar Mazara as well. While there are degrees of risk associated with each transaction, the White Sox have unquestionably upgraded at several spots offensively. Depending on how they elect to proceed with promoting their two consensus top prospects -- outfielder Luis Robert and second baseman Nick Madrigal -- the Pale Hose could boast one of the most electrifying and formidable offenses in the American League next season. Here’s a preview of their potential Opening Day lineup, if the Death Star is fully operational:
White Sox Projected Starting Lineup
Yoan Moncada, 3B
Tim Anderson, SS
Jose Abreu, 1B
Eloy Jimenez, LF
Nomar Mazara, RF
Luis Robert, CF
Nick Madrigal, 2B
There’s also a chance that Chicago’s front office, spearheaded by general manager Rick Hahn, may not be done adding to their offensive core. According to a report by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on Thursday, the White Sox are looking at additional right field options and appear to be targeting free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig. The 29-year-old is among the most polarizing and divisive players in the game, but remains extremely productive. He posted a solid .267/.327/.458 batting line with 76 runs scored, 24 homers, 84 RBI and a career-high 19 stolen bases across 611 plate appearances between the Reds and Indians last season.
MLB Quick Hits: Matt Moore has agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the SoftBank Hawks in Japan. The 30-year-old southpaw made two appearances for the Tigers before undergoing season-ending surgery in mid-April for a torn meniscus in his right knee ... According to Nikkan Sports, the Reds appear to be the favorite to land Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama. However, a separate outlet in Japan is reporting that the Padres are the leading contender. Akiyama has also been strongly linked to the Cubs and Rays … Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Pirates and Reds have discussed a potential trade involving outfielder Starling Marte.