Having lost out on the Edwin Encarnacion sweepstakes, Billy Beane hardly sounded like a man scorned while discussing the topic Friday night.
The A’s top baseball official led Oakland’s surprising big-money run at signing Encarnacion, the three-time All-Star slugger who eventually wound up taking a three-year $60 million contract from the Cleveland Indians that includes an option for a fourth year.
“The fact that when it came down to the end, we did give it our best shot,” Beane said in a phone interview. “We just lost out at the end. The process was a lot of fun because those are not guys we’ve been in on the last few years.”
Indeed, the main takeaway isn’t that Oakland missed out on Encarnacion, but that the A’s were in the running to begin with.
Encarnacion’s agent, Paul Kinzer, told MLB Network Radio that the A’s aggressive push gave his client plenty to think about. Kinzer said Oakland’s offer, reportedly for two years, actually offered more money in terms of annual value than the Indians did. But a swaying factor was location, Kinzer said. Encarnacion liked the opportunity to play in Cleveland, where it’s a shorter trip for his family in the Dominican Republic.
Beane was pleased that A’s principal owner John Fisher gave the green light to extend an offer to Encarnacion that in all estimates had to hover in the neighborhood of $25 million per season. It was more than the $20 million Cleveland offered annually, and Kinzer mentioned the A’s offered “Cespedes-type” money. The Mets’ four-year deal for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is worth $27.5 million annually.
“It’s a new ownership structure,” Beane said. “I thought it was really positive the way it worked internally.”
After Lew Wolff sold most of his ownership stake and stepped down as managing partner in November, Fisher assumed the managing partner role and has gotten more actively involved in the running of the A’s than he was before. During the winter meetings, Beane talked of him and Fisher being on the same page about a long-term vision for the franchise, with an emphasis on increasing spending on scouting — domestic and international — and player development.
The pursuit of Encarnacion does not necessarily contradict that focus.
“We sort of saw this as a unique opportunity with a premium free agent still out there,” Beane said. “We knew we’d face some headwinds going in, one being he was very much attached to staying closer to the East Coast. But again, we saw this as a unique player, somebody that despite the fact that we’re trying to develop a young team, we thought was that type of player who would have served as a real good anchor point with our young pitching and some of our other young players.”
The play for Encarnacion shows the A’s aren’t shy about spending big this offseason on a player that catches their attention. Their biggest need remains a starting center fielder, though given the lack of “star” options available, they likely won’t need to bid as high as they did on Encarnacion.
Given that they have center field needs both at the major league level and in the farm system, it’s not out of the question they could explore different routes — free agency and trades — to fill both needs.