Party at Napoli's?That was a great theme for the 2016 Indians, but it didn't work as well in the fall as it had in the spring and summer.Still, it would have been easy for Cleveland to write off a poor October performance (.521 OPS, one homer) and quickly sign the
Party at Napoli's?
That was a great theme for the 2016 Indians, but it didn't work as well in the fall as it had in the spring and summer.
Still, it would have been easy for Cleveland to write off a poor October performance (.521 OPS, one homer) and quickly sign the popular Mike Napoli to a contract extension. But president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti was patient.
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That patience was rewarded as the Blue Jays and teams like the Astros, Rangers and Cardinals allowed Edwin Encarnacion to remain unsigned after a season in which he blasted 42 home runs and led the American League with 127 RBIs. All the while, his price was dropping.
Encarnacion reportedly started the process seeking a nine-figure deal, and many people projected him to receive more than $90 million. Instead, the Indians were able to sign him just before Christmas for a deal that guarantees him $60 million over three years.
While Encarnacion had been given a qualifying offer by Toronto, Cleveland was drafting at the bottom of the first round. The Indians sacrificed only the No. 25 pick for a slugger who has been worth 4.2 WAR per season over the past five years.
All of that is why the Tribe signing Encarnacion was the best move of the offseason. There were lots of other good ones, too. Here they are in order:
2. White Sox restock
This was technically two moves, not one. But because the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton happened at the Winter Meetings, we're counting them as one. GM Rick Hahn produced a staggering return for his two veterans, with the Nationals paying an amazingly high price to add Eaton in center field and alongside Trea Turner in their lineup. Who would have thought one team could land Yoan Moncada (the No. 2 prospect in MLB, according to MLBPipeline.com), Lucas Giolito (No. 12), Michael Kopech (No. 16) and Reynaldo Lopez (No. 46) -- among others -- within 24 hours?
3. Red Sox add ace No. 3
While Dave Dombrowski paid heavily for Sale, he landed one of the most impactful pitchers in the Majors. Sale joins reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and David Price, the 2012 winner, to give Boston a rotation for the ages. Sale is signed for three years entering his age-28 season. He's thrilled to get a shot with a top team (and, as a bonus, one that trains near his offseason home). Sale has an AL Cy Young Award-worthy season or two in him, and they just might come in Boston.
4. Yankees renew ties with Chapman
It's hard to say a closer can be worth $86 million, but the Cubs possibly wouldn't have won the World Series without Albertin Chapman. The Yankees' signing of Chapman in December can only properly be viewed with the transaction that preceded it. They landed shortstop Gleyber Torres, one of baseball's best prospects, from the Cubs for Chapman last July, and now have them both. That's an impressive 1-2 move by Brian Cashman, who has still got it.
5. Mariners trade for Segura
Context is important, and Jean Segura's 2016 performance got lost because the D-backs were such a disappointing team. But Jerry Dipoto surely noticed, and he landed the 26-year-old shortstop -- as well as outfielder Mitch Haniger -- for right-hander Taijuan Walker in one of the offseason's most interesting trades. In Segura, Seattle is getting a dynamic hitter (a National League-leading 203 hits, including 20 home runs last season) and plus baserunner to hit in front of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. The D-backs are gambling that Walker can develop the consistency he's lacked, but the move to the more hitter-friendly Chase Field won't help.
6. Royals extend Duffy
Long an organizational tease, Danny Duffy turned a corner after moving from the bullpen to the rotation last May, striking out more than a batter per inning. He's never had a 200-inning season, but he's poised for a run of them as he works at age 28. Duffy was headed for free agency after 2017, but Dayton Moore bought out four years of free agency with a five-year, $65 million extension. Moore did not give Duffy no-trade protection, so he could be turned into a trade chip if rebuilding becomes necessary as the core of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez breaks up.
7. Cardinals sign Fowler
There's symbolism in this move that makes the high price tag ($82.5 million over five years) easier to swallow. In getting the center fielder and leadoff man from the World Series champions, the Cardinals are taking back a little of what they've lost to their rivals since the 2015 Division Series. More importantly, William Fowler is a two-way upgrade. He allows Matt Carpenter to hit lower in the order, where he can be a run producer, and it lets Randal Grichuk shift to left field.
8. Rockies hire Black
When the Padres gave Bud Black his first chance to manage in 2007, he was replacing Bruce Bochy on a team that had won the NL West two years in a row. He doesn't have such a tough act to follow this time around, as Colorado hasn't been in the postseason since '09 and is trying to end a run of six losing seasons. Black is a smart hire as pitching is the thing he knows best, and that's the riddle the Rockies have never quite solved. He's got an ace to build around in Jon Gray and should have a much-improved bullpen with Greg Holland and Mike Dunn in the mix.
9. Giants sign Melancon
Diagnosing the Giants' needs was as easy as assessing a massive head wound. Fans knew how badly a closer was needed when they watched Bochy use five relievers in the ninth inning of the decisive Division Series loss to the Cubs. The Giants got the remarkably consistent, low-drama Mark Melancon for significantly less (four years, $62 million) than the Yankees and Dodgers are paying Chapman and Kenley Jansen. They don't lose a Draft pick, as the Pirates had traded Melancon to the Nationals at midseason, and now Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto can breathe easier.
10. Orioles re-sign Trumbo
Talk about a bargain. The versatile slugger who led the Major Leagues with 47 home runs signed for less than the Orioles gave shortstop J.J. Hardy two years ago and only about 23 percent as much as they gave Chris Davis a year earlier. Mark Trumbo lingered on the market until Jan. 20, when he took $37.5 million over three years to return to Baltimore.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.