Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion; two names that are arguably the primary faces of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise right now. These are also two key guys which the Blue Jays’ impending success is invariably tied to.
If for some reason both these players were suddenly out of the lineup, the Blue Jays would have two cavernous-sized holes to fill. Which subsequently led to me thinking about what life would be like for the Blue Jays without Bautista and Encarnacion.
Admittedly, this was a very sad proposition, but it’s an inevitable one. One day, Joey Bats and Edwin will no longer be in Blue Jays uniforms. The question is, “how much longer?”
Like anybody with too much time on their hands during the offseason, I was perusing Baseball Reference and came across their list of Most Games Played Without a Postseason Appearance.
Lo and behold the Blue Jays bash brothers currently sit at two and three on the list among active players, and a former Blue Jay has the dubious honour of having played the most games without a trip to the playoffs.
|Most Games Without at Postseason Appearance|
|Player||Games||Seasons||Games as a Blue Jay|
Alex Rios has gone 1586 games without making the playoffs, and Jose Bautista has 1250 games under his belt without a trip to the postseason, while Edwin Encarnacion has endured one less season of anguish, but isn’t far behind at 1207 games.
While these numbers on their own might not mean that much, it just reiterates exactly how long two of the most senior members of the Blue Jays have been around in Toronto without even so much as a sniff of the playoffs.
Both Bautista and Encarnacion are under contract for 2015 and have options for 2016 which will all but surely be picked up, but what happens beyond that? Ideally, this offseason would be the opportune time to work on a contract extension, but that all depends on whether Jose and Edwin still want to play here beyond the 2016 season.
This is especially evident if there’s any truth to the rumoured tension between the Blue Jays’ front office and players like Jose Bautista. If that’s the case, I think it’s very unlikely these guys re-sign with the club beyond 2016.
Frankly, I can’t really blame Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion for wanting out if they’re not happy with the direction the organization has taken.
Part of me wonders how long it will be until the Blue Jays encounter another Roy Halladay scenario, when they’ll be forced to trade their best players to contending teams.
The career arcs of Roy Halladay, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion aren’t all that alike, but their circumstances with the Blue Jays are drawing a few parallels. Like Halladay, Bautista and Encarnacion are arguably at the peak of their careers playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, but have yet to make a postseason appearance.
Earlier this month, somebody left a comment here with a very salient point which I’ll paraphrase; they said “when a player signs a contract, they’re making just as much a commitment to the team as the team is to the player”.
For some strange reason, when it comes to free agency and contract extensions, I tend to envision players sitting by the phone waiting for prospective teams to offer up their services. However, it’s really the teams who do all the courting.
So in that respect, if Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will have put in nine and eight years in Toronto respectively, why would they re-sign? Unless the Blue Jays can magically make the playoffs in the next two seasons, what incentive do they have to stick around?
Some have pined for the Blue Jays to not only sign Melky Cabrera to a contract extension this winter, but to also lock up Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion at the same time. The Blue Jays locking up their three best hitters for the foreseeable future can only be a good thing.
Signing Russell Martin to a five-year contract may have bought the Blue Jays a bit of good faith with Bautista and Encarnacion, as would any additional substantial offseason signings or trades. But if things go sideways for the team in 2015 like the Boston Red Sox, it could mean these guys may be used as trade bait.
Keep in mind, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion signed extremely team-friendly contracts and the Blue Jays have already received incredible value from both of their contracts. On the flip side, I wonder if players ever develop a sense of remorse down the road for signing those deals.
The security of a multi-year deal may be great and all, but if those players begin to consistently outperform their contracts and approach free agency, the focus for them may shift to “how to I make up the cash in my next contract?”
Whether they re-sign with the Blue Jays or if they go elsewhere, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion’s next contracts will not only be sizable, it will also likely be their last shot at a big contract.
Given his track record at the time, the Blue Jays took a leap of faith in signing Jose Bautista to a five-year/$65 million dollar contract. Edwin Encarnacion’s three-year/$29 million dollar deal wasn’t quite as heavy, but there was also some risk involved with that contract as well.
For the amount they have contributed to the Blue Jays these past few seasons, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have been very much underpaid.
Since 2010, Jose Bautista has amassed 27.7 fWAR at a value of $129.8 million dollars according to FanGraphs. Meanwhile, he’s been paid only $52.4 million dollars the past five seasons.
The discrepancy with Edwin Encarnacion isn’t quite as large; he’s amassed 14.4 fWAR at a value of $69.5 million dollars. Meanwhile, Encarnacion has made $28.175 million dollars since 2010.
Needless to say the Blue Jays have received tremendous value from both of these contracts already. Which means there are likely many teams out there willing to overpay for Bautista and Encarnacion’s services if they potentially hit the open market at the end of 2016.
At this very moment, it’s very difficult to imagine a competitive Toronto Blue Jays team without Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They drive the engine of this squad; these guys are crucial to the Blue Jays’ success.
If the Blue Jays fail to put a contending team on the field in the next few seasons, I’m afraid the Blue Jays are doomed to repeat the very same thing that happened with Roy Halladay; they could be forced to trade Bautista and Encarnacion to at least get something back in return.
And I’m afraid that means the front office will have some crucial decisions to make next offseason, and they surely hinge on Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion’s future with this organization.
Image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports