Toronto Blue Jays GM, Ross Atkins said on Sunday that the club is active in discussions to extend its pair of sluggers.
The immediate future of the Toronto Blue Jays looks pretty good at the moment. They look to be in reasonable shape heading into the 2016 season. The recent trade for Drew Storen creates more flexibility in the club’s efforts to address pitching needs. The offense that led the league in 2015 looks primed to return, even if they don’t have the leadoff hitter they had to end the season.
The outlook for beyond the 2016 season looks less clear. As Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweeted, there are several key players who are set to become free agents at the end of 2016.
#BlueJays now have six players entering walk years: Bautista, Encarnacion, Dickey, Chavez, Cecil, Storen
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) January 9, 2016
The first two on this list might prove to be the most scary of the potential losses. The offense depends on their heavy bats being front and center. Right now, though, 2017 could very well see these two in different uniforms.
For his part, Edwin Encarnacion has tabled a time frame for his negotiations. He wants to start the season distraction free, so the club is on the clock, so to speak. While it may feel like there is pressure to get a deal in place soon, the reality is that it doesn’t really need to take that long. Once the club feels like it has an idea as to what it wants to do, the negotiating “dance” shouldn’t take that long. Either the deal is acceptable, or it isn’t. Encarnacion may be the simpler of the two sluggers to re-sign.
The other, Jose Bautista, may prove to be a bit more challenging. It is thought that he is a business savvy individual who will look to set himself up in a favorable situation outside of his baseball contract. His many off field business endeavors point to this. He may be more likely to want to look to other markets for his next deal. That is not to start a “Bautista to New York” rumor, but it is something that could play into his decision.
Aside from that, Bautista may bring more to the table for his next contract. Where Encarnacion will be seen as a DH first and a 1B second, Bautista will be looked upon as a guy who has a couple (maybe) more season left in the outfield and then can be moved to 1B/DH. Assuming his production will not completely drop off the face of the earth (and, why would it), Bautista’s age (35) may not be a factor. Encarnacion, on the other hand, just might be at an age where his age is concerning, given that he could see some regression in the future, as I looked at HERE.
Indeed, there will be some back and forth if discussions will proceed. And, that is what is happening, apparently. According to Jonah Birenbaum of The Score, Ross Atkins spoke to MLB Network Radio about the current state of negotiations. There wasn’t really anything solid to relay if you’re looking fr a deal to be done. But, what may draw your attention is the comments that the club is engaging both players.
“We’ve talked to both of them at length about this, and spent time in person with Edwin, a lot of time on the phone with Jose – and plan to meet with him in person next week, actually – so it’s the kind of thing where, you know, it’s a huge decision either way, either angle,” Atkins said.
Things are in motion. Due diligence is being done. The goal is obviously to seriously entertain the potential deals. They are not just going to let either walk away without some kind of effort, as some would fear. Exhale. The belief that the Blue Jays new management is going to run this team into the ground can be thrown out now, right? They’re working.
“So it’s going to take a lot of work on our end, and I think what we’ve been focused on to date is, ‘How do we make this team better without sacrificing our future?’ And we’ll continue to do that as we factor in the decision to extend them or hopefully come to terms with something that makes them happy.”
The only question is what will make them happy? What will make the players happy? Well, market value is a place to start. As we’ve seen, the market is a tricky animal, but it will undoubtedly pay both players more than they are making now. A raise is definitely in their future. So, the other side of that coin is whether forking over the kind of money they’d be seeking will make the club happy. And, will it fit into their idea of making the team better without sacrificing the future?
The audio of the Atkins conversation can be found HERE.
*Featured Image Credit: Credit: Arturo Pardavila III under CC BY-SA 2.0
Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.