The View From Pluto: How The Indians Landed The Star In Their 'Blue Sky'
The Indians’ World Series run helped them land one of the biggest hitters in the game. But signing Edwin Encarnacion still took a bit of strategy and luck. WSKU’s Amanda Rabinowitz talked to our commentator Terry Pluto about the Indians’ budget-busting $60 million deal:
Indians fans got to see Edwin Encarnacion during the postseason, when Cleveland eliminated the Blue Jays in the AL Championship Series. He's a right-handed slugger who averages 36 home runs a year and drove in 120 runs last year.
He became a free agent at the end of the season and projections were that he would get a $100 million contract.
Hoping for a blockbuster contract
The Blue Jays offered Encarnacion $80 million for four years. "He wanted to stay in Toronto. His agent turned it down. So, the Blue Jays moved on. He then turned down a three-year, $66 million deal from the Houston Astros."
"The problem is, he's going to be 34 in early January," Pluto says. "He's primarily a designated hitter. A very good one, but the age comes into play."
"The Indians played this waiting game very smart and won big."
So, the Indians saw an opportunity.
"They had him as No. 1 on their list. They call it 'blue skying.' In their blue sky, the perfect scenario, it would be Encarnacion. So, they finally came up with this three-year, $60 million offer. Then, Oakland comes into play. They offered sort of the same money that the Indians were, but they're not very good at all." So, Encarnacion picked Cleveland.
Pluto says the Indians didn't think they'd land the slugger. "They kept thinking some team was going to come out of no where. Because they were at their peak [offer]." But no other team did.
Pluto says the Encarnacion deal is a budget-buster and signals that they have moved on from last year's designated hitter, Mike Napoli. The Indians offered the free agent a one-year deal that he turned down. He's still looking to be signed somewhere.
"They will definitely be the pick to win the the Central Division, easily. Many people will pick them to return to the World Series," Pluto says.
A ballooning payroll and ticket sales
The Indians' payroll goes from about $95 million last year to $135 this year, which Pluto says is almost the major league average. Last year, they ranked 25th in payroll.
And the Indians hope it turns into more season ticket sales.
"They sold 200 tickets in the first 24 hours after the Encarnacion signing was announced. You take 81 home games, times 200, and suddenly you're up to 16,000 more tickets. Plus, I was told they're up to 9,000 season tickets, up from a little over 7,000 last year. And they're hoping to get to 10,000. This team has not been above 28th in attendance since 2011."
"The fans seems to be very excited. Ownership, which had been derided for being cheap, made a major commitment going forward. The Indians played this waiting game very smart and won big. I just hope Encarnacion stays healthy for a couple years," says Pluto.