Edwin Encarnacion expressed doubts about his future with the Blue Jays, telling Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun that he feels “they don’t have it in their plans for me to stay here.” The slugger is “really disappointed that nothing has happened [in contract talks], but it’s not my decision,” as he wants to keep playing in Toronto beyond this season.
Encarnacion also commented on the lack of progress in extension talks earlier this week, telling ESPN’s Enrique Rojas that the two sides hadn’t begun discussing money yet, as there was still disagreement over how many years an extension would cover. An unnamed Jays player and “Encarnacion loyalist” told Elliott a few days ago that he’d heard the club had only offered Encarnacion a one-year extension at the Winter Meetings and then a two-year offer later. Blue Jays president/CEO Mark Shapiro offered no comments on the Encarnacion negotiations when talking to reporters, including John Lott of VICE Sports (Twitter links), as Shapiro noted that there would be a better chance at a positive outcome if the contract talks remained private.
Of course, there’s already been quite a bit of media buzz about both Encarnacion and (even moreso) Jose Bautista’s extension talks with the two sluggers both set for free agency next winter and both having been vocal about their desire to stay in Toronto. It’s hard to discuss one player’s case without discussing the other, as the Jays are faced with the choice of extending two players to huge contracts through their mid-30’s (Encarnacion is 33) and late 30’s (Bautista is 35), extending just one of them or letting both walk, which would result in both fan disappointment and a gigantic hit to the Jays’ lineup.
Though Encarnacion is the younger of the two, he could be the bigger question mark in terms of long-term durability. Encarnacion is essentially already a full-time DH, and he’s been hampered by injuries to his quad, back and finger over the last two years. An abscessed tooth and an oblique strain have kept Encarnacion from any game action this spring, though he told Elliott that “the oblique pain is minor” and he’s just being cautious in order to avoid a greater injury that would cost him time in the regular season.
On the flip side, Encarnacion has generally been a pretty durable player over the last four seasons and obviously his recent injuries haven’t impacted his offensive production. Assuming that he hits as usual in 2016, he’ll be in line for a massive free agent contract next offseason, especially given how next year’s free agent class is thin on elite talent.
Encarnacion is a strong bet to land at least a four-year deal next winter, so if the unnamed teammate’s comment was accurate, then a one- or two-year extension offer is unrealistically low on the Blue Jays’ part. Then again, it’s not uncommon in any negotiation to open with a very high (or low) dollar amount or number of years just on the off-chance that other side accepts, or at least to set a baseline for the talks. Encarnacion set Opening Day as the deadline for extension talks, however, so it seems as if the two sides will need to make some quick progress if a new deal is to be reached this spring.