BOSTON -- If the baseball world was a little surprised by the Indians landing the big bat of Edwin Encarnacion, manager Terry Francona has come to expect the unexpected from his resourceful front office.Fresh off getting to Game 7 of the World Series, in which his team suffered a gut-wrenching
BOSTON -- If the baseball world was a little surprised by the Indians landing the big bat of Edwin Encarnacion, manager Terry Francona has come to expect the unexpected from his resourceful front office.
Fresh off getting to Game 7 of the World Series, in which his team suffered a gut-wrenching loss to the Cubs, Francona looks forward to getting acquainted with his new slugger in Spring Training.
"I'm thrilled. I give our guys a lot of credit," said Francona, who was honored by the Boston Baseball Writers' Association as MLB's Manager of the Year on Thursday. "Last winter, with [Mike Napoli], they kind of stayed at him, that wasn't something that just happened overnight. They worked hard and stayed at it and got him and he made a big difference for us.
"This year, we don't normally play in that neighborhood [of Encarnacion]. Because they were doing their due diligence so much, I don't think they expected that Edwin would fall to where we could jump in there. But they did and got creative and good for us."
The only tough part of it for Francona was it signaled the inevitable departure for Napoli, a cornerstone for the 2016 Indians.
"My thought all along was we would get to a point where we would re-sign him, but when the Encarnacion thing kind of crept in, it's kind of hard not to talk to him," Francona said. "It's a little bittersweet because of how much Nap meant to us. I didn't think there was a chance to even talk to Edwin."
Francona credits president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff for being ready for any scenario.
"It's a matter of Chris and Chernie working [so hard]," Francona said. "I'm proud of them. That's a pretty impressive bat. I've felt like this all along, I don't think it's any secret. I think our guys do a really good job of targeting.
"Last year it was Nap and [Rajai Davis]. And it was realistic and still hard, but they made it work. This year, because they do their due diligence, they were ready. Like I said, they're always working. For every deal that gets done, there's a million that don't. I was proud of them. It's no secret. I love those guys."
Francona, who underwent a hip replacement earlier shortly after the World Series, is eager to get to camp with the defending American League champions.
"Going into this spring, yeah, we're excited. Everybody is," Francona said. "You don't know what's going to happen but I do think it's a good place to start from. We're thrilled and hopeful that [Michael Brantley] is going to be OK. He's our best player. And we had him for I think 11 at-bats. We missed two-fifths of our rotation and didn't have Yan Gomes, so yeah, we're excited."
Ian Browne has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and **Facebook**.