Agent Paul Kinzer said at this week’s press conference to introduce Edwin Encarnacion in Cleveland that the attendance bonuses that are built into the contract — worth upwards of $1MM per season, according to FanRag’s Jon Heyman — helped push the Indians’ offer over the top, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. However, it may be tough to meet those figures, as Hoynes points out that Cleveland hasn’t topped two million fans (the minimum threshold for Encarnacion to begin receiving incentives) since 2008 and haven’t drawn three million fans in a season since 2001. That type of clause is rare enough, Kinzer notes, that Cleveland president of baseball ops Chris Antonetti had to call the commissioner’s office just to see if the Indians would even be allowed to include such an incentive in the contract. While it’s unlikely that Encarnacion alone will drive the Indians’ attendance to those levels, MLB.com’ Jordan Bastian tweets that Cleveland has sold more than $1MM worth of season tickets since word of the agreement with Encarnacion broke — a 50 percent increase in new sales relative to last year’s offseason. A couple more notes on the Central divisions:
- Though this week’s report that Brandon Phillips nixed a trade to the Braves (via FOX’s Ken Rosenthal) lends some credence to recent connections between Atlanta and Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press circled back with a source that characterized a Dozier-to-Atlanta deal as a “long shot” (Twitter link). It continues to appear as if the Dodgers are the only team that currently has a strong enough need to consider meeting Minnesota’s price for its excellent second baseman.
- Fastball velocity has increased throughout the game in the past several seasons, but it’s increased even faster within the Pirates organization during that time, Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs writes. The Bucs finished first in fastball velocity in 2015 (94.0 MPH) and second in 2016 (93.4 MPH). A key trait of many of the reclamation pitchers the Pirates have used in recent years — from starters like A.J. Burnett, Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano to relievers like Arquimedes Caminero, Neftali Feliz and John Holdzkom — is that they possess above-average velocity, as Sawchik points out. Bucs GM Neal Huntington notes that velocity gives pitchers more cushion for their mistakes, in that a poorly located pitch thrown in the mid-90s is less likely to yield poor results than a poorly located pitched thrown at a more modest radar reading. Now that other teams are also valuing velocity among free-agent pitchers, the Pirates are looking to develop hard-throwing pitchers of their own, like Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl.