Edwin Encarnacion is officially a South Sider.
The White Sox announced a one-year, $12 million free-agent deal for the 37-year-old slugger Thursday, making official a move that was reported weeks ago. The contract contains a $12 million team option for the 2021 season, as well.
Encarnacion is just the latest in a series of splashes Rick Hahn's front office has made this winter, joining fellow big-name free-agent additions Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel. But unlike the long-term deals for those two All Stars, a short-term contract for the aging Encarnacion signals better than anything the team's win-now expectations. Even if Hahn remains hesitant to announce postseason intentions, it's difficult to read the addition of Encarnacion as an affirmation of anything but a mission to get the White Sox to October for the first time in more than a decade.
Certainly Encarnacion figures to be helpful in such a quest, bringing some much needed pop to the middle of the White Sox lineup. Though he played in just 109 games between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees last season, he still launched 34 home runs, his eighth straight season of at least 32 dingers. That total would have led the 2019 White Sox, with Jose Abreu's 33 bombs the team high last season.
With Encarnacion, the White Sox hope they can find success similar to what the division-rival Minnesota Twins got from Nelson Cruz last season. Turning 39 in the middle of the season, Cruz smacked 41 homers to lead the 100-win Twins.
Encarnacion figures to take over as the White Sox primary designated hitter, a necessary upgrade after South Side DHs combined for an AL-worst .648 OPS in 2019. While Hahn laid out a scenario in which Grandal, Abreu, James McCann and Zack Collins could have teamed for a rotation of sorts at catcher, first base and designated hitter, Encarnacion as a more reliable, everyday-type DH makes much more sense, while also adding plenty of heft to the middle of the batting order. His ability to play first base, too, will allow the White Sox to get Abreu off his feet when necessary.
Encarnacion is obviously just one aspect of a transformative offseason for the White Sox, who in addition to Encarnacion as the new everyday designated hitter have added two new pitchers to the starting rotation (Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez), a new No. 1 catcher (Grandal), a new everyday right fielder (Nomar Mazara) and a new back-of-the-bullpen reliever (Steve Cishek, reportedly). They've also locked up their first baseman (Abreu) for the next three years and given out a record contract extension that clears the way for their new everyday center fielder to make the Opening Day roster (Luis Robert). A new everyday second baseman, Nick Madrigal, figures to make his major league debut at some point in 2020, as well.
That's an incredible amount of positive change for a team that experienced so many bright spots from their young core in 2019. All that adds up to those realistic playoff expectations, and Encarnacion is a part of it.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.