DEC. 23: The White Sox seem to be aggressively going after Encarnacion, as they’re “very serious” in their pursuit and look as if they’re “at the forefront of talks,” Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. However, Heyman notes that it’s doubtful a deal will come together until after the holidays.
The South Siders have already made a couple of high-profile acquisitions this winter, dishing out multi-year contracts to catcher Yasmani Grandal and lefty Dallas Keuchel. They’ve also added Gio Gonzalez and Nomar Mazara in a pair of lower-profile moves. They’ve been one of the most active teams this winter, and there might still be more to come.
While the additions of Gonzalez and Keuchel—along with the presumed return of touted prospect Michael Kopech and the expected progression of Dylan Cease—figure to provide a healthy boost to the starting rotation, the White Sox could certainly stand to improve the lineup, which in 2019 put up the third-fewest runs in the American League. While Grandal is an unquestionable upgrade, he and Mazara alone are surely not enough to vault the offense into the league’s upper division.
Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson are premium talents on the left side of the infield, and they showcased their talent with a pair of breakout seasons in 2019. Top prospects Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert loom as likely solutions to the vacancies at second base and in center field after putting up video-game numbers in the minors.
Between Anderson, Moncada, Madrigal, Mazara, Jimenez, and Robert, the upside of the lineup is undeniable and the best-case outcome is a lineup that goes nine deep, but Sox fans will more likely have to wait a couple years for that reality to actualize. As far as this year is concerned, the volatility of that group equals its potential. With that in mind, the veteran combination of Jose Abreu and Encarnacion looks like as good a pair as any to teach the young guns.
Enter Edwin? Encarnacion, who will play the 2020 season at age 37, is still among the finest designated hitters in baseball and could probably roll out of bed and put up 30 homers and 100 RBI. He would surely serve as a fine anchor for a youthful lineup that seems to lack a “sure thing.” And he won’t cost a fortune. Even if the Sox, after inking Grandal and Keuchel to hefty deals, are nearing their spending limit—Roster Resource estimates their current 2020 payroll at $112MM, compared to $96MM at the end of 2019—Encarnacion is an affordable option; MLBTR projected that he would earn a one-year deal worth $8MM in free agency.