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MLB Hot Stove Update: Edwin Encarnación, Kole Calhoun, Dellin Betances

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Heath examines the Hot Stove with a fantasy baseball slant.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Christmas is here, especially for White Sox fans...you guys finally have a DH!

Edwin Encarnación signs with the White Sox

Encarnación signed a year-long deal worth $12 million. He’ll turn 37 in January, but his only job is going to be raking from the DH spot in windy Chicago (and maybe spelling Abreu at first base on occasion). He’s had an astonishing eight years in a row of 30+ homers—in fact, his lowest mark was 32 dingers during that stretch, and he had a pair of 40+ homer years as well as a 39-homer and 38-homer campaign. Maybe he’s getting long in the tooth, but if you remove xBA from his Statcast profile he’s another “alllllll reds” sort of guy (I love Rounders so much). In 2019, he was 69th percentile in exit velocity and hard hit rate, 78th percentile in xwOBA, and 83rd percentile in xSLG. He’s not losing his touch, either. His barrel rate has risen in each of the last two years, topping out at 12.6% in 2019—twice the MLB average of 6.3%. And for a power guy, he doesn’t strike out a lot (right over 20% the last two years). The Sox are building a monstrosity:

Add in Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal (after service-time considerations?!?) and that’s a downright filthy lineup. Also, one last thing: James McCann may be more likely to be traded now. He’s neither the primary backstop or DH, which would seem to make him expendable. It goes without saying that plenty of teams could use him at catcher. And selfishly, I’d like to have another viable catching option to rank come 2020...

Kole Calhoun signs with the Diamondbacks

It’s a two-year deal worth $16 million. Calhoun basically takes the place of Steven Souza, who the D-backs non-tendered. Calhoun is 32 years old and can be counted on for a poor batting average (think .240) and high-teens power. Last year he did crack 33 bombs, but that’s an outlier year compared to the rest of his time—and he still only batted .232 with the bouncy ball. He’s not a fast guy either (25.9 ft/sec). His strikeout rate has worsened every year since 2016, too: 17.6%, 20.5%, 24.1%, 25.6%. Last year’s 14.6% swinging strike rate was the worst mark of his career. The nuanced take is that Calhoun was probably selling out to pull the ball over the lowered right field wall in LA, hence the spike in strikeouts, homers, and pull rate (career-high 50.5% pull rate in 2019). In Arizona, we’ll likely see him revert back to what he was before. The bigger news here might be the fate of Josh Rojas, who likely falls into a super-utility role for the D-backs. His best shot at consistent playing time will be beating out Jake Lamb at the hot corner. On second thought, keep taking shots on Rojas at his 300+ ADP.

Dellin Betances signs with the Mets

The Mets used the money they saved restructuring Yoenis Cespedes’ contract and signed the former high leverage, multi-inning reliever from the Yanks, keeping Betances in his hometown of New York. It’s a bullpen that already includes Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo, so it’s possible Betances doesn’t sniff ninth inning work in 2020. It’s also possible he takes over closing duties, though (more on that in a second). Betances suffered a shoulder injury and a partial Achilles tendon tear in 2019, only appearing in one game. The expectation is that he’ll be ready for Spring Training, however. And look at what the Mets are doing...

Getting all those strikeouts! Any return to normalcy at all for Diaz and Familia, and that’s a hell of a bullpen. Here’s more on Betances and his strikeout ability...

There’s no denying the Mets are on the right track. For fantasy purposes, though, I’m not sure if we’ll see the multi-inning performances from Betances that we were used to seeing. I’d imagine Lugo or Gsellman fills that role if necessary, while Betances gets eased into things. What this does is pour a bit of cold water on the Diaz rebound—if healthy, Betances is good enough to take his job, especially if Diaz is stumbling and costing the Mets precious games in a tight NL East. I may pump the brakes on Diaz just a tad now.

What’s your team missing now, folks? I’m waiting on my Braves to snag Josh Donaldson after all this dust settles...the Dodgers will just have to settle for Justin Turner...