According to a recent report, the Toronto Blue Jays will make efforts to retain the services of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.
If the Toronto Blue Jays were not comfortable with extending Edwin Encarnacion before the season started, perhaps they would be now that he’s put up some impressive MVP type numbers. Or, perhaps his clutch postseason hitting has tipped the scales in his favor. Whichever it is, the club certainly has to be thinking long and hard about ponying up the dough for Edwin.
That appears to be the case according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. Buried within a piece that backtracks on his earlier dismissal of the Cleveland team, Heyman provides some hope for those begging Rogers, Mark Shapiro, Mike Wilner and anyone else who’ll listen to re-sign the Walker of Parrots.
Heyman says that the club plans on making qualifying offers to both Edwin and Jose Bautista (more on him in a bit), assuming the new collective bargaining agreement allows for one. That is not much of a surprise. The team would certainly offer up the one year deal in the hopes of retaining the players or them rejecting the nearly $17M in favor of free agency, which would net the club two picks in the next draft. So, the QO is not such a difficult decision.
For Edwin, it was his 2016 season that helped solidify the decision for Toronto’s front office. His 42 HR, 127 RBI and .263/.357/.529 line are definitely signs that the 33 year old is not showing signs of slowing down, which the club likely feared. Before the season started, we’d heard that the club approached the slugger with a David Ortiz kind of deal- 2 years and 2 options years. And, they’re likely kicking themselves for not bending on that and getting something done before his price tag went up. Now, they’ll need to work harder (and pay more) to convince the player to not listen to at least one other team (*cough* Boston…).
To his credit, Edwin is saying all the right things to make you think his preference is to stay in Toronto. During celebrations this postseason, he said he wanted to be back. After the ALDS, he went out and showed a lot of love to the fans still on the field. His love for the city of Toronto is well known. All things being equal, signing him to an extension should not be that difficult. The problem is whether the philosophy of the Blue Jays new regime fits with opening the purse strings. It may not be an ownership issue. If ever Rogers would open the purse for a player, Edwin might be the guy they agree to. It’s not like he’s a new free agent they’re trying to lure. He’s a known, and coveted commodity.
So too is Jose Bautista. Like Edwin, he has slugged and bat flipped his way into the fabric of Blue Jays lore. His advanced age puts him as a bigger question mark moving forward. Of course, his 2016 season was not up to his usual standards. He missed some time due to injuries that are not age related, but will be used against him in negotiations. There is no doubt that, whatever the reason, he will not be seeing that 5 yr/$150M deal he was rumored to be after.
Heyman says that there is no way that Ross Atkins and Co would pass up the chance to pick up a draft pick from the qualifying offer for Bautista. If he accepts, they would be paying him a tad more than his $14M salary in 2015. It will be interesting to see how confident Bautista feels in hitting free agency. Like Edwin, he would just need one other team to see value in him. And, Heyman suggests that that idea may be more appealing to Jose.
We should also mention that the future of Bautista is linked to the commitment to Edwin. The belief is that the more senior player is not long for the outfield. So, he would likely require a move to DH or 1B, which would create a conflict if Edwin is signed to do the same. Would the club actually consider paying top dollar for a platoon 1B/DH? That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Perhaps, Bautista’s future with the Blue Jays will show us just how much faith they have in his fielding.
But, the real point that Heyman was trying to get across was the club’s interest in signing Edwin long term: “Encarnacion’s big year is expected to spur the Jays to be willing to do something more competitive – though no one expects them to blow him away and no one will be surprised if he leaves for greener pastures. There is a belief around baseball he’ll get four years (at least) as a free agent, and that’s something the Jays might consider, though they’d prefer three…Encarnacion was believed, at least this spring, willing to consider a “hometown discount,” though it’s not known if that’s still the case.”
The season that Encarnacion has put together has to have only helped his cause in his next contract. He is going to get PAID. Of this there is no doubt. For fans of the Toronto Blue Jays, who are still buzzing about his Wild Card walk off and ALDS performance, this will come as good news. Of course, we shouldn’t expect any kind of announcement during the postseason. If the contract situation would be a distraction during the season (which is why they dropped the issue), that would be especially so now.
But, once the postseason has finished (and after the, ahem, Blue Jays parade) you can bet the negotiations will become clear. We’ll get an answer very quickly as to whether the club plans on moving in a different direction, or rewarding one or both of the key bats that have led them to new found success.
*Featured Image Credit: Bliss Nogueira Bliss Photo @BlissNogueira
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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.