If Blue Jays are looking ahead to what Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion could fetch on open market, a reunion seems less likely.
The hypotheticals have been rampant over the last little while in Blue Jays Land. It seems everyone has an opinion about how much the Toronto Blue Jays could, should or would be willing to fork over to extend their dynamic duo of sluggers. The conversation has gone into whether one of, both of, or neither one of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will be back with the club after the 2017 season.
The closer we get to the end of Spring Training (and the beginning of the season) the more it looks like the club will be willing to take its chances and attempt to reopen “negotiations” at the end of the season. Could they be willing to risk letting these two hit the open market? Perhaps. Maybe they will keep the door open as the two test the waters. It’s a strategy. It is one that could end up costing them. Or, it could work out well for them.
Before we get into that, though, we should probably address the issue that some have raised already and are likely to raise midseason if the above happens. If there is no deal in place for beyond 2016 for the two, some have suggested that the Blue Jays look to move them at the July Trade Deadline in the hopes of recuperating some of the inevitable loss. There are two issues with this. The first makes the whole conversation moot and is that both players are “10 and 5” guys (10 years of MLB service, 5 with the same team), which means that they have the right to veto any trade. Period. Do we think that either would give up the chance to play on what looks to be a division favorite ready to make a playoff run all because their feelings were hurt this spring? Secondly, even if they would approve a trade, the club would be silly to look to move them in that situation. Playoffs are more attainable with Encarnacion and Bautista than without them.
With that out of the way, we can safely assume that, as things stand now, 2016 will see the Blue Jays and their two sluggers in the final year of their relationship. It won’t be quite as dramatic as the final season of Friends (read sarcasm…please), but will have the same sort of ‘impending sadness’ feeling.
Part of the consideration, at least on the part of the players, will be what they can fetch on the open market. 2016-2017 is expected to be a weaker free agent crop, so the temptation to at least put out some feelers has to be quite real. With that in mind, Tim Dierkes of MLBTR.com put out a ranking of the top free agents come season’s end. He acknowledges the inherent issues with this kind of exercise, which I encourage you to read. For our purposes, though, we’re going to look at what his piece says about the Blue Jays’ Dynamic Duo.
Bautista ranks 4th on the list with Encarnacion in the 5th spot. Dierkes acknowledges that Bautista (at 35) is likely seeking $30M per season for 5 or 6 years. It is not really clear that any team in baseball would be willing to go that 6th guaranteed year. Even though Blue Jays fans believe that if anyone can maintain production at age 40, it is Bautista, do baseball analytics and those who use them agree? It is a huge gamble. Dierkes agrees. He sees Bautista fetching 4 years. This makes a lot of sense. At the end of that deal, he very well could turn it into the David Ortiz “let’s take it one year at a time” option laden kind of deal, which would keep adding millions. This kind of deal is not likely to sit well with the player who is very aware of his (current) value and has extreme confidence in his abilities. That said, that confidence could mean that he would be OK settling for a shorter deal knowing he’ll be able to get another.
That is assuming that the AAV is to his liking. Dierkes doesn’t think that the $30M per season mark is that unreasonable. He expects him to get that. So, 4yrs, $120M for Jose Bautista. This is a deal that might not sit well with the current Face of the Franchise, but is likely more in line with what he would get from any other club as his value is higher with the Blue Jays.
As for Encarnacion, the deal is slightly different. He’s younger, but has not received the kind of recognition his counterpart has. Quietly, though, Edwin has been among league leaders in HR over the last several seasons. His value may be perceived as less due to his limited defensive abilities. He’ll be seen as a DH only when he hits the market in an era where flexibility and versatility are at a premium. Still, Dierkes thinks that EE could still see 4 yrs and $100M. What might hurt his chances are his battles with injuries. Now, you might not say that he’s injury prone as he hasn’t really had a constant returning issue, but he has had an unfortunate history in recent years of one off injuries that could be used to paint a questionable picture…if you’re a club trying to drive down his price.
If you ask Blue Jays fans, their club certainly has the money to meet the above demands. And, that may be true. They have the means and the motive. But, that does not mean that deals will get done. When you stop to think about the financial commitments already in place for beyond 2016 for Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, and then add these potential sizable deals, the likelihood seems slimmer and slimmer. It becomes even less optimistic when you think about the likes of Brett Cecil potentially leaving, R.A. Dickey (and Josh Thole) leaving, Michael Saunders, Drew Storen, Justin Smoak and Jesse Chavez all likely heading out the door. There will be lots of needs next offseason.
The Blue Jays could be banking on both of these guys looking ahead to the market and having teams balk at the number of years. This past offseason and its usage of the opt out clause shows an overall uneasiness with long term commitments. But, given the age of these two players, they’re not looking at short term. They want as much commitment as they can get, for as much money. Can they get more from the Blue Jays? Are the Blue Jays willing to let them try and find it somewhere else? Time will tell, but right now, it certainly seems likely.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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