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Amid MLB's home run revolution, free-age

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# 02.12.2017 - 06:58:48

Some perceived "winners'' of the hot stove season thrive because they are bold, have a keen organizational vision or possess the biggest pile of money. But success can also be a byproduct of patience and restraint. Few teams are more opportunistic than the Cleveland Indians, who waited long enough last winter for a prized commodity to fall into their laps.

As Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and his group embarked upon the task of fortifying their roster, they were intent on adding a middle-of-the-order bat. Toronto DH Edwin Encarnacion was high on the team's wish list. But the Indians were so skeptical of their chances to land Encarnacion that they didn't even have a formal sit-down with his agent, Paul Kinzer, at the general managers' meetings or the winter meetings.

"We figured we just couldn't play at that level of a Jim McMahon Womens Jersey guy,'' Indians GM Mike Chernoff said.
Then a funny thing happened. Encarnacion's market stalled, owner Paul Dolan stepped up to make the necessary financial commitment, and the Indians sprung into action. They signed Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million deal with a fourth-year option, and he led the team with 38 homers, 107 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage before suffering an ill-timed ankle injury against the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.
No one can predict if an Edwin Encarnacion-caliber bargain will emerge on the free-agent market this winter. But if teams are looking for pop, they'll find it in a variety of positions and price ranges.
That's a natural offshoot of baseball's new power-happy existence, which resulted in a record 117 hitters with 20 or more home runs this season. Of that group, 16 are available as free agents this winter. The array of options begins with J.D. Martinez, who was proclaimed the "King Kong of Slug'' by agent Scott Boras after he launched a career-high 45 homers, and ends with catcher Welington Castillo, who reached 20 for the first time with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Los Angeles Angels scratched one name from the list when they signed outfielder Justin Upton to a five-year, $106 million extension in November. As the non-tender deadline approaches, Atlanta's Matt Adams (20 homers in 339 at-bats) could be available if the Braves don't work out a trade for him. Houston's Evan Gattis and Tampa Bay's Brad
Miller -- both of whom have 30-homer seasons on their résumés -- have also been mentioned as potential non-tender candidates. But indications are that both players will be tendered contracts by Friday's deadline.
Regardless of the final number, all those long balls have turned each day into Black Friday for teams in search of power. According to ESPN Stats & Information, a total of 16 hitters with 20 or more homers signed major-league contracts as free agents last winter -- compared to only five the previous season. That doesn't include Ryan Howard, who signed a minor league deal with Atlanta in April after hitting 25 homers for the Phillies in 2016.
Amid the glut of options, teams are tempted to rearrange their priorities. Do they make an early push for an outfield defensive whiz or an innings-eating starter knowing there are fewer of those to go around?"Obviously, it's a game of supply and Austin Rivers Jersey demand,'' said Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who is not in the market for an impact bat this offseason. "If the supply is high on one position, maybe you do attack the position that has a low supply and kind of make your choice after that.''
Even seemingly minor developments on the trade market support the notion that power alone has become a devalued commodity. The Phillies have tried to deal Tommy Joseph, who has been displaced at first base by Rhys Hoskins. But they didn't get any nibbles last summer while Joseph was on his way to hitting 22 homers and slugging .432. Two weeks ago, the Oakland Athletics traded third baseman Ryon Healy (25 homers and a .451 slugging percentage) to Seattle for reliever Emilio Pagan.
"Hitters are making a conscious Skal Labissiere Jersey decision to hit with more power and perhaps sacrifice contact,'' said John Mozeliak, the St. Louis Cardinals' president of baseball operations. "Should that change the value of a home Malik McDowell Jersey run or not? It's a fair question.''
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