Chicago White Sox add power bat in Edwin Encarnacion

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15: Edwin Encarnacion #30 of the New York Yankees celebrates hitting a double during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game three of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15: Edwin Encarnacion #30 of the New York Yankees celebrates hitting a double during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros in game three of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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This offseason even brought us a signing on Christmas Day, as the Chicago White Sox signed veteran Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year deal.

Many could argue whether or not the Chicago White Sox will actually be true contenders in 2020. The team still has its fair share of weaknesses in the bullpen and the starting rotation is highlighted by two aging veterans. However, at this point it’s quite obvious that the White Sox are at least trying, as Christmas Day signings aren’t usually the works of a team willing to play out the string.

I took a look at the ChiSox roster several days ago, checking up on the current lineup’s projections as well as the starting rotation. In that piece I added a player to the White Sox lineup, as it just seemed like the perfect final piece to the team’s batting order. On Wednesday evening, the South Siders added that player, signing almost-37-year-old Edwin Encarnacion to a batting lineup that should challenge the franchise’s home run record.

The Christmas Day deal is a one-year, $11 million pact, with a $1 million signing bonus as well as a $12 million club option for 2021. Basically, it’s almost exactly what we expected Encarnacion to receive this offseason, as FanGraphs projected a one-year, $14 million deal for the veteran first baseman.

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If you recall, Encarnacion slugged 34 homers in 2019, while slashing .244/.344/.531 in 486 plate appearances for the Mariners and Yankees, on his way to his best season since 2016 with the Blue Jays. At 36-years-old, Encarnacion was worth 2.5 WAR, hit 29% above-average (129 wRC+) and managed to post excellent power numbers despite playing in only 109 games — his second lowest total of the decade.

The adding of Encarnacion doesn’t exactly move the needle for the ChiSox long term, nor does this signing lengthen any type of contending window the team is currently after. No, this move is only about the present and making the team better right here and right now, which is nice to see from a team three years into a rebuild.

Encarnacion doesn’t come without risks. Oblique, ankle and wrist issues kept him off the field this past season, and you can almost guarantee he’ll have some type of ailment in 2020 (his age-37 season); but that’s fine, when considering the surplus of first base/DH types already rostered, the White Sox aren’t necessarily looking for 140-150 games from Encarnacion.

In fact, a full season of Encarnacion actually results in some spillover, as James McCann looks to be the expendable player at the moment. With this signing, superstar catcher Yasmani Grandal will have fewer places to play (other than behind the plate), which in turn limits playing-time for McCann. But if I’m the White Sox I’m not concerned about that quite yet, as there’s no reason to worry about too many hitters right now. There’s always the possibility that Encarnacion doesn’t hit this year, isn’t healthy or the team simply doesn’t perform the way we’re all expecting them to.

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Fortunately, if it’s the latter of those three, and Encarnacion is, in fact, healthy, the Chicago White Sox can always move him at the deadline for other pieces… ones that can help the team in 2021.