The White Sox’ lineup is going to pack some punch in 2020.
The addition of Edwin Encarnacion, whose signing to a one-year, $12 million deal with a club option for a second year at $12 million, an industry source confirmed, injects a 30-home run slugger into a batting order which already was boosted by catcher Yasmani Grandal in November.
Plug them in with American League batting champion Tim Anderson and RBI leader Jose Abreu, as well as Yoan Moncada (.315/.367/.549, 25 homers, 34 doubles), Eloy Jimenez (31 homers in 122 games as a rookie) and Minor League Player of the Year Luis Robert (.328/.376/.624, 32 homers, 36 stolen bases at three levels in 2019), and the Sox have the makings of a run-producing lineup worthy of contending for the postseason.
Encarnacion, who turns 37 in January, will receive $11 million in salary and a $1 million bonus for 2020. There is no buyout in the deal, which would total $24 million in value if the option is exercised. Encarnacion batted .244/.344/.531 with 34 homers, 86 RBI and a .875 OPS in 109 games with the Mariners and Yankees last season. The three-time All-Star has amassed 414 homers in 15 seasons, averaging 37 over the last eight seasons.
Encarnacion can play first base but figures to get most of his at-bats at designated hitter. Sox DHs combined to produce an AL-worst .648 OPS last season.
The additions of switch-hitting Grandal and 24-year-old left-handed hitting right fielder Nomar Mazara, who belted 19 homers, including a major-league best 505-footer, already provided needed balance from the left side. Before their arrivals, only the switch-hitting Moncada stood as a threat from the left side.
How Encarnacion’s addition affects at-bat opportunities for catchers James McCann and Zack Collins is something manager Rick Renteria will sort out.
McCann, an All-Star in 2019 whose numbers waned in the second half, will serve as an above-average backup if the Sox don’t trade him. General manager Rick Hahn implied this month that the left-handed hitting Collins, the 10th overall draft pick in 2016 who batted .186/.307/.349 with three homers in 102 plate appearances, could see more time at Class AAA Charlotte — and that was before Encarnacion was added.
Here is one potential lineup for 2020, barring any more additions: CF Robert, 3B Moncada, 1B Abreu, C Grandal, DH Encarnacion, LF Jimenez, SS Anderson, RF Mazara, and 2B Nick Madrigal. With no major-league experience, Robert and Madrigal are not expected to make the Opening Day roster but could be called up in April, although Robert could break camp with the team if he is signed to a multiyear extension as Jimenez was during spring training last season.
With the Encarnacion signing, the Sox arguably have improved themselves more than any team in baseball this offseason, including the Yankees who signed right-hander Gerrit Cole to a $324 million deal. The Sox are expected to announce left-hander Dallas Keuchel’s signing of a three-year, $55 million deal soon, and they also added veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez to their rotation on a one-year, $5 million deal. Grandal was signed to a four-year, $73 million deal in November, and Mazara was acquired for minor-leaguer Steele Walker during the winter meetings earlier this month.