BREAKING: Chicago White Sox Ink Edwin Encarnacion to one-year deal

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BREAKING: Chicago White Sox Ink Edwin Encarnacion to one-year deal

Edwin Encarnacion brings his elite power potential to Guaranteed Rate Field | Photo by: Brad Penner of USA Today

Edwin Encarnacion brings his elite power potential to Guaranteed Rate Field | Photo by: Brad Penner of USA Today

Edwin Encarnacion brings his elite power potential to Guaranteed Rate Field | Photo by: Brad Penner of USA Today

Edwin Encarnacion brings his elite power potential to Guaranteed Rate Field | Photo by: Brad Penner of USA Today

Matthew Rago, Managing Editor

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The Chicago White Sox have signed designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion to a one-year, $12 million deal with a club option for the 2021 season, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The latest free-agent splash in an objectively successful free agency period, Encarnacion’s acquisition positions the White Sox’ roster to rival the power potential of division rival the Minnesota Twins, who set an MLB record with 307 home runs during the 2019 season. Encarnacion, who has spent time with the Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees during his 15-year career, is expected to occupy the six-hole in a White Sox lineup that suddenly looks primed for postseason contention.

A three-time MLB All-Star, the right-handed slugger put up steroid-era power numbers over the past five seasons. Including an injury-plagued 2019 campaign that saw him play in only 109 games, Encarnacion has averaged 37 home runs and 107.6 RBIs per campaign, leading the Major Leagues in RBIs as recently as 2016.

At age 36, critics of the move worry that Encarnacion is susceptible to a steep drop off in production. However, when readjusted to reflect a full 162-game season, Encarnacion’s 34 home runs and 86 RBIs over 109 games during the 2019 season would turn into an approximate 45 home run, 114 RBI effort. Such a move would mirror the Twins’ signing of designated hitter Nelson Cruz who, at age 40, has enjoyed a seemingly indefinite stay atop the MLB home run charts thanks to his consistent and reliable power production.

If the Sox’ acquisition of Dallas Keuchel didn’t already signal the franchise’s win-now mentality, signing Encarnacion certainly does. The Sox now feature a dangerous lineup from top to bottom, featuring Jose Abreu, the 2019 American League RBI, and Tim Anderson, the 2019 batting average champion, to go alongside two bats that were on pace to hit upward of 40 home runs before their seasons were curtailed by injuries (Encarnacion and Eloy Jimenez). Of course, that’s not even mentioning Yoan Moncada, who ranked third in the 2019 AL batting race, or rookie phenom Luis Robert.

What this means for the club’s pursuit of Nicholas Castellanos remains unclear. On one hand, Castellanos would provide an upper echelon platoon in right field alongside newly-acquired Nomar Mazara. However, Castellanos defensive deficiencies are well-documented and with Encarnacion occupying the designated hitter’s role on the Sox, there simply may be too much congestion to warrant splurging on another big bat. Furthermore, Castellanos may opt to sign with a club who guarantees him more plate appearances. Nevertheless, the White Sox still possess the financial flexibility to add to a roster that looks exponentially more well-rounded and promising today than it did at the conclusion of the 2019 season.