White Sox

What Edwin Encarnacion brings to the White Sox — besides just power

What Edwin Encarnacion brings to the White Sox — besides just power

The expectations for Edwin Encarnacion aren't terribly complicated. The White Sox hope he hits a lot of home runs.

That's what Encarnacion specializes in. He's socked at least 32 dingers in each of the last eight seasons. His 297 long balls since 2012 are the most in the majors.

The White Sox certainly needed a power infusion this offseason, and they've gotten it. After the South Siders ranked 25th out of 30 big league clubs with 182 home runs in 2019, Rick Hahn's front office has thunderized the lineup with Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal and Nomar Mazara, a trio that combined to knock 81 balls out of the yard last season. Encarnacion's 34 homers came in only 109 games and still would've led the White Sox, one more than Jose Abreu's 33.

Throw in Luis Robert, who hit 32 homers in the minor leagues in 2019, and a few dozen more games' worth of plate appearances from Eloy Jimenez, who navigated a couple extended stays on the injured list to still hit 31 homers as a rookie, and this figures to be a vastly more powerful lineup in 2020.

"We made no secret about the fact while we had certain positions, such as right field and DH, that we needed to improve our offensive production on, we also were clear that we needed to improve, as a whole, our ability to get on base and our power," Hahn said on a Thursday conference call. "And between Yasmani and Mazara and Edwin, we feel like we're going to take a step forward in that regard, not to mention once Luis Robert gets here, as well. So it's an area of need entering this offseason and one that we feel we've managed to address here over the last few months."

In the end, just how much the White Sox got out of Encarnacion's one-year, $12 million deal — and perhaps whether they decide to pick up the option for his age-38 season in 2021 — will heavily depend on how many home runs he hits. But the acquisition addressed other needs that could have plenty of impact, as well.

Encarnacion is the third of three big splashes by Hahn's front office this winter, joining Grandal and Dallas Keuchel. Those two guys got multi-year contracts, part of the long-term planning on the South Side. Encarnacion is different, a player who could potentially be here for only one season, indicating the team has win-now expectations in 2020. The emergence of the young core a year ago and all of Hahn's work this offseason have brought realistic playoff hopes to the South Side, and while the general manager isn't leaping at the chance to declare it, Encarnacion's addition on such a short-term deal — a hired gun, if you will — signals that win-now intent.

But just because the White Sox are ready to win doesn't mean they know how quite yet.

There's the through line, in addition to all that on-field production, with those additions this winter: Grandal played in each of the last five postseasons, Keuchel played in four of the last five postseasons, and Edwin Encarnacion played in each of the last five postseasons.

You want to teach Jimenez and Robert and Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech how to win? The new guys know their stuff.

"That's obviously a tremendous track record for each of them but also speaks in part to what we're trying to accomplish not just on the field but in terms of taking that next step in our clubhouse and this young core not only growing together but learning how to win and learning what it takes to be successful not only over the course of the summer but well into October, as well," Hahn said. "And Edwin's another piece in trying to accomplish that."

White Sox designated hitters were wildly unproductive in 2019, with an AL-worst .648 OPS. There was a pressing need for a new DH on the South Side, and while a rotation of Grandal, Abreu, James McCann and Zack Collins might have ended up working out in some fashion, Encarnacion seems a far more dependable result. His experience as a DH — not just a good hitter but as an everyday designated hitter, a position players as good as Abreu say is a really hard one to master — definitively solves what was a glaring problem. And he helps turn the middle of that batting order into a strength.

The White Sox needed some pop. They needed a solution at DH. They needed some winning experience. They needed a productive offseason if they were going to chase down the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians and make their vault into contention mode in 2020.

Encarnacion addresses all those needs.

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.

White Sox Talk Podcast: The start of a legend, the story of THE Luis Robert home run

0903_luis_robert.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: The start of a legend, the story of THE Luis Robert home run

In Durham, N.C. in August 2019, White Sox youngster Luis Robert hit one of the most jaw dropping home runs anyone has ever seen or heard. Chuck Garfien relives that legend starting home run with Ryan McGuffey, Vinnie Duber and White Sox players Zack Collins, Danny Mendick, and Nick Madrigal. The link to the homer is below. INDULGE!

(2:45) - Luis Robert is a specimen

(4:15) - Robert does everything well, literally everything

(7:32) - Zack Collins on what he thought of the Robert home run

(9:34) - Danny Mendick remembers what the home run looked like

(11:46) - Nick Madrigal on what the dugout was thinking after the home run

(14:00) - How far can Robert hit a ball in Chicago?

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

 

White Sox Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

In order to be contenders, the White Sox must learn how to win in 2020

In order to be contenders, the White Sox must learn how to win in 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If the White Sox are going to start winning in 2020, they're going to have to learn how.

Certainly a talented roster will play a large role in that. But the influx of veterans this winter didn't just bring on-field capabilities. In adding Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez and Steve Cishek, Rick Hahn's front office injected this team with winners, guys who have been to the playoffs and made sizable impacts on winning clubs.

If anybody can teach the young White Sox how to win, it's these guys.

"Yasmani's been in the postseason each of the last five years, Keuchel four of the last five years and Edwin each of the last five years," Rick Hahn said after the Encarnacion signing became official in early January. "That's obviously a tremendous track record for each of them but also speaks in part to what we're trying to accomplish not just on the field but in terms of taking that next step in our clubhouse and this young core not only growing together but learning how to win and learning what it takes to be successful not only over the course of the summer but well into October, as well."

And that playoff experience is rather extensive:

— Grandal won four consecutive NL West championships with the Dodgers and went to back-to-back World Series in 2017 and 2018 before helping the Brewers reach — and hitting a home run in — the NL wild card game last season.

— Keuchel reached three out of four postseasons with the Astros, including in his Cy Young season of 2015 and the team's now-controversial World Series season of 2017, and won an NL East title with the Braves in 2019.

— Encarnacion played in three of the last five AL Championship Series and won AL Central crowns with the Indians in 2017 and 2018.

— Gonzalez played in four postseasons with the Nationals and made the NLCS with the Brewers in 2018.

— Cishek pitched with the Cubs team that played in the NL wild card game in 2018.

Considering even the White Sox team leader, Jose Abreu, has never finished a major league season above .500, all this new playoff experience adds something that was sorely missing.

"You've got to have the talent, and we have the talent on this team," Encarnacion said. "This team makes me remember the team that we had in 2015 with the Blue Jays. A lot of young talents, a few veteran guys and we put everything together and this team is going to be right.

"The team has to be together. If you're going to win, we've got to be together like a team. Pick up your teammates. That's why you have to stay together. If your teammate does something wrong, you're going to feel it and you're going to want to do something to help them out. That's all about it.

"This team makes me remember what we had in Toronto. ... This team has the talent to compete in the division and win."

That 2015 Blue Jays team won the AL East and made it to Game 6 of the ALCS before being eliminated by the eventual world-champion Kansas City Royals. Encarnacion hit 39 homers and drove in 111 runs that season, a set of numbers that would be good news for the White Sox half a decade later.

But in addition to that production, the White Sox could reap the benefits of Encarnacion's playoff experience. The same goes for what they can glean from Grandal, Keuchel and Gonzalez.

"I think that these guys in particular have played a huge role in postseason play in terms of actually performing and being in the limelight. I think their presence in and of itself and probably some of the conversations that they suddenly have with the group play a big part," manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday at Camelback Ranch. "I think that's one of the things that we're hoping to take advantage of. For us, it's a really important time, because now we're trying to take those young men that have developed and are putting themselves on the map, as very good Major League Baseball players trying to take it to the next place.

"And it's like anything too, those moments you can't replicate until you get there. So everybody deals with them differently. Hopefully we're able to deal with them positively. And they have some guys in that I've gone through it that will help them be able to make some adjustments."

The winning-experience ingredient has been added to the interesting gumbo that is the 2020 White Sox, a team that has designs on bringing October baseball to the South Side for the first time in more than a decade. All these veterans can serve as resources for the young guys and teach them what is necessary to be a contender along the way.

And these veterans can feed off the talent of those same youngsters to drive toward another addition to their postseason resumes.

"Once you get a little taste of the playoffs, that's why you play is to get that feeling," Keuchel said. "As much as you want to replicate it in the regular season, for guys who have no playoff experience, I think the regular season is that feeling. But there's another feeling to it that pushes you and wants you to be a better player.

"Ultimately I told Rick Hahn this: I said, 'Four out of the last five years, I've made the playoffs, and I don't expect any of these three years (during the contract with the White Sox) to be any different.'" 

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.