The White Sox needed more power, and that’s what slugger Edwin Encarnacion is expected to bring to the South Side.
Despite being limited to 109 games last season, Encarnacion hit .244 with 34 home runs and 86 RBI with the Mariners and Yankees.
“The numbers speak for themselves in terms of continuing to be a dangerous presence and an outstanding source of power for the last decade-plus,” general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday after the Sox announced they agreed to terms with Encarnacion on a one-year, $12 million deal that has a club option for 2021. “We feel he’s someone who’s going to not only improve our run-scoring, but be a significant positive within our clubhouse, as well.”
Though he can play first base, Encarnacion, who has hit 32 or more homers the last eight seasons, figures to be the Sox’ primary designated hitter. His power and consistency make him a much-needed upgrade at the position. Last season, the Sox’ DHs combined to produce an American League-worst .648 OPS.
The Encarnacion addition raised questions about the Sox’ plans for catcher James McCann. He was expected to be a DH in 2020 after the Sox signed skilled pitch-framer Yasmani Grandal in November.
Hahn said the Sox still see value in keeping McCann, 29.
“Having quality depth is a positive thing on good clubs, and it’s part of what makes good clubs able to withstand the unexpected,” he said. “We view James as potentially playing a role on a championship club, and that hasn’t changed since the end of last season to today.”
After years of trading valuable assets for prospects, the Sox seemingly have turned the corner in their rebuild. Hahn said he specifically targeted free agents who have playoff experience — including Encarnacion, Grandal and left-hander Dallas Keuchel — in hopes they’ll help establish a winning mentality in the clubhouse.
That desire to contend combined with the growth of a young core made the South Side an intriguing destination for Encarnacion.
“It’s a young and talented team that they have,” said Encarnacion, who just turned 37 on Tuesday. “I’m very excited to be part of this team, and I think this team has a great future. [I’m going] to try to help this team [accomplish] our goals and make the playoffs.”