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Edwin Encarnacion was worth the big bucks in 2017

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

3 years, $65 million guaranteed. Shocking!

Most Tribe fans were very happily surprised last December when the club brought out their checkbook and signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the largest contract in franchise history. It was a heck of an early Christmas present for Indians’ fans (all those except the #dolansrcheap crew) and was portrayed around baseball as a win for both sides, as Encarnacion got paid and the Tribe got a true middle-of-the-order masher for a not-crazy-long contract (see Pujols or Miggy Cabrera).

So how was his 2017? Was he worth all that ca$h?

While Encarnacion was far from perfect, he had another really solid season and was an extremely important part of the Tribe’s awesome 102 win season. EE slashed .258/.377/.504 with 38 home runs and 107 runs batted in. While his 132 w/RC+ was down from the 150’s a few years ago in Toronto, it was still good enough for 12th best in the American League.

Encarnacion got off to a pretty putrid start this past season, worrying many fans about a possible Nick Swisher partdeux situation. After another hitless night on May 20th, Encarnacion was hitting just .199 and slugging just .353. Plenty of commenters were out with their pitchforks and spewing angry rants, but with reassurances from manager Terry Francona, things turned around rather quickly. Over his next 30 games, Encarnacion silenced those keyboard warriors, blasting 10 homers, slugging .621 and putting up a 173 w/RC+.

Edwin played 23 games at first base this season, putting up a UZR/150 of -3.0. That’s not ummm amazing. For reference, Carlos Santana put up a 4.7. There’s no one great advanced defensive metric, and EE wasn’t signed for his glove, but it’s accepted that he’s a serviceable enough first baseman and that’s about it.

Encarnacion sprained his ankle early in Game 2 of the ALDS series and it looked really painful. Surprisingly, he was able to return for Game 5, going 0-4 in a game we’re all still trying to forget.

What does 2018 have in store for the slugger? As long as he stays healthy, it’s plenty reasonable to think another 30+ HR season is the floor for Encarnacion. So while he’s an expensive piece on the Tribe’s roster, he most certainly is a valuable one.