New teammates welcome Edwin's arrival

Tribe's offseason prize: 'I want to feel like part of the family'

New teammates welcome Edwin's arrival

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It did not take long for Edwin Encarnacion to feel at home inside the Indians' clubhouse. Shortly after arriving to his locker at the team's spring complex on Friday, a group of his teammates pulled up chairs and gathered around Cleveland's new first baseman for early-morning conversation.

After meeting with manager Terry Francona, Encarnacion and Carlos Santana, whose lockers are adjacent, headed to the indoor cage to get in some swings. It was the first day in a new era for the Indians, and the first step for Encarnacion in getting to know his new surroundings after signing a blockbuster deal over the offseason.

"I want to feel like part of the family," he said.

Following parts of eight seasons with the Blue Jays, who lost to the Indians in the American League Championship Series last fall, Encarnacion inked a three-year, $60 million contract with the Tribe. After Encarnacion reached an agreement with the Indians in late December, Santana was one of the first people to call his new teammate. Catcher Yan Gomes offered to let Encarnacion wear his No. 10 in Cleveland.

Those gestures went a long way in helping Encarnacion feel immediately embraced by the Indians, who were not believed to be a suitor for the slugger when the offseason began. It was not until after the Winter Meetings, as the market for first basemen developed slowly, that Cleveland realized it could be a serious contender for Encarnacion's services.

When the front office laid out the landscape for team owner Paul Dolan, he gave the go-ahead for them to agressively pursue Encarnacion.

"When we sensed that there was a potential match on both sides," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said, "in terms of what it was going to cost and how it could potentially fit, we started to engage Paul much more seriously, and he started to engage us more seriously in what it would take to make it a reality. I think we all recognize the situation that we're in and the market that we're in.

"What was really neat about it was Paul taking the leap of faith. It was Paul stepping in and saying he wanted to do this."

Plan for Encarnacion in 2017

In Encarnacion, Cleveland has one of the game's premier power hitters. He belted 42 home runs, collected 127 RBIs and posted an .886 OPS in 160 games last season. Over the past five years, Encarnacion has averaged 39 homers, 110 RBIs and a .912 OPS. He has played both first base and designated hitter, and said he is fine with however Francona wants to use him.

Encarnacion did not get the kind of money many thought he would secure this winter, but he did receive the largest free-agent contract in Cleveland history. He also joins a team that is projected to win the AL Central and contend for a pennant. Encarnacion said the Indians' potential for winning is what really drew him to sign with the team.

"I made the decision to come here, because here I have the opportunity to win the World Series," he said. "This team, they look great and I think they have great, young talented players here. We have a lot of opportunity to be in the World Series again and win it."

On Encarnacion's first day in camp, he met with Francona briefly. The manager said his message was simple.

"It was just to explain to him how we feel about things, and that we're thrilled he's here," Francona said. "And, the quicker he gets acclimated and isn't the new guy, the better."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.