The Blue Jays will attempt to hammer out new contracts with pending free agents Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports. Toronto intends to engage with those stars’ representatives this spring, per the report.
As has previously been reported, Jays president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins have sat down with both sluggers already this winter, though Atkins made clear to Stark that the meetings didn’t involve contract negotiations. But those chats did solidify the team’s view that it would “love to have both of them” remain in Toronto past the 2016 campaign, as Atkins put it.
“And the more we’ve learned about them, that has only increased our interest in keeping them here,” Atkins went on to say. “The challenge lies in placing a value on that and then agreeing on a contract.”
Of course, as that last line suggests, finding common ground still appears to pose a significant challenge. While both players paid off — and then some — under their prior extensions, there as many reasons for hesitation now as when they first inked big deals.
Though both players are now well entrenched among the game’s best power hitters, age is a major consideration. Bautista is already 35, while Encarnacion just hit 33. And defensive limitations also come into play. The former has begun to draw negative metrics in the outfield, while the latter is more or less limited to first base or DH duties at this point.
As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently wrote in evaluating Bautista’s extension candidacy, those considerations would seem to make it unlikely that long-term commitments would be made to both players. Exactly how that will play into the way the Jays approach talks — for instance, whether one or the other is prioritized, or whether Toronto pursues each independently but only to a certain cost point — remains to be seen.
It does appear that Bautista, at least, is ready to engage in talks. He has spoken glowingly of the organization and indicated he’d like to finish his career there. Of course, as Ken Rosenthal discussed with Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca on a recent podcast, it is hard to see the veteran taking a truly significant discount with free agency beckoning.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better middle of the order duo that’s stayed together and been so consistently productive. Dating back to 2010, their first full season together, Bautista has slashed .268/.390/.555 and contributed 227 home runs. Encarnacion, meanwhile, has carried a .271/.358/.525 line with 189 long balls, with his output only increasing over that span.