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.