Toronto Blue Jays fans need to relax – there’s just as good of a chance that Edwin Encarnacion stays in Toronto as he leaves
I’m not necessarily convinced one way or the other that Edwin Encarnacion leaves the Blue Jays in the off-season. The situation is more complicated than this simple dichotomy suggests.
The conventional and popular argument is that the Blue Jays simply can’t afford to retain his services. If the benchmark for Encarnacion is Chris Davis‘ latest contract with the Orioles, then it will be difficult for any team to cage this parrot. Encarnacion is a better hitter than Davis, and he’s emerged as a reliable defensive option at first base over the course of this season.
This tells me that Encarnacion’s average yearly salary will not dip below $23 million – the same as Davis – but that it has the potential to exceed this amount. However, a key difference between the two sluggers is age: Encarnacion is three years older than Davis and will be 34 years old the start of next season. Davis’ current contract, interestingly, will expire when he’s 36, which you might read as the Orioles’ unwillingness to invest heavily in Davis or bank on his performance beyond this age.
Would the Blue Jays be willing to re-sign Encarnacion for four or five years at $25 million a year? It’s tough to say yes, but it isn’t clear that they would automatically say no either.
A major hindrance on current discussions about Encarnacion’s future in Toronto is that many people remain stuck in a “payroll parameters” mindset. If we were having this discussion two or three years ago, it would be easier to say Encarnacion leaves, but the competitive and financial landscape has changed dramatically in Toronto over the past year.
Television and radio ratings are hitting all-time highs for Sportsnet, topping TSN in the process; the Blue Jays currently lead the American League in attendance on the year, and they just passed 3 million visitors for the first time since 1993; the team is already pushing playoff tickets for this year and season tickets for next year; and now Mark Shapiro is talking about creating more intimate (and lucrative) fan experiences at Rogers Centre.
If the team isn’t competitive, people won’t be attending games, and Shapiro can put all that talk about maximizing revenue opportunities through tiered ticket prices and differentiated fan experiences to rest. They’ll be lucky to sell an overpriced hot dog and beer on a cheap ticket to see the Rays.
The Blue Jays are ultimately an entertainment product. Rogers knows this, and they’ve benefited handsomely from this fact over the past year. You can’t make money without spending money, and this is why I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Encarnacion leaves town. If he can extend the team’s competitive window for another two or three years – if he can help to continue maximizing revenue for Rogers – then there is every incentive to re-sign him. (A more apt comparison for Encarnacion’s current contract status may be the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan in this respect.)
For those who insist on playing the “payroll parameters” card, the Blue Jays could save some money and redirect it to Encarnacion by letting Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, and R.A. Dickey walk in the off-season. They’ll also naturally “save” some money since the money put aside for Encarnacion’s current contract would be rolled into his new contract.
This brings me back to an earlier point: I don’t think the determining factor is automatically cost – I think it really comes down to where the Blue Jays see themselves in the next couple of years and the type of term being sought by Encarnacion. If these two factors align, I would bet on Encarnacion remaining a Blue Jay.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Bliss Nogueira @blissnogueira blissphoto.ca
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