Bautista and Encarnacion: Blue Jays for Life?

Can you picture the Toronto Blue Jays without Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion? These two guys have arguably been the team’s best two players the past five years, so it’s kind of difficult to envision the franchise without them.

For the foreseeable future, Bautista and Encarnacion will remain in Blue Jays uniforms, but what about beyond the 2016 season? Again, it’s hard to fathom the Blue Jays minus their two best hitters, but perhaps they might not have to.

Earlier this offseason, I wrote at length about the possibility of re-signing Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to long term contracts. And after a few key events over the last week or so, that suddenly doesn’t seem so far-fetched.


Just yesterday, Jose Bautista spoke to MLB Network’s Hot Stove and expressed his desire to remain as a Blue Jay beyond 2016:

“I’ve always envisioned finishing my career in Toronto. What I’ve done over there, the chances I’ve gotten over there, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve received over there.

I have some sense of loyalty to the franchise and to the country because of that.”

Maybe the business side of baseball has made some fans like myself a little jaded on the subject of loyalty in professional sports, but I was quite surprised to hear Jose Bautista say that.

He’s one year away from free agency (well, two if his 2016 option gets picked up), the Blue Jays have yet to field a contending team, and Bautista is already talking about wrapping us his career in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform.

Not only that, but Jose makes it sound like he owes it to the franchise to stick around, because they’ve afforded him some great chances.

This news was not only surprising, but very endearing of Jose Bautista. He certainly was obligated to say those things, as he could’ve just responded with the canned answer “I’m focused on winning right now, etc”, but instead, he actually addressed his future intentions.

Very curiously, this also jives with something Alex Anthopoulos said last week at the State of the Franchise. There was one question submitted by one of the season ticket holders, asking Alex if he envisions Bautista and Encarnacion being “Jays for life”.

“I do know that they want to stay. That doesn’t ensure or guarantee anything, but in having spoken to both of them, they have a strong desire to stay and we have a strong desire to keep them.

I would expect at some point we’ll sit down with them and try to work something out. The good part is they want to stay and they’ve both expressed that to me as well.

I’ve heard it from them many times; how much they appreciate the fans and playing here, and they feel a part of it and they don’t want to go anywhere else.”

To reiterate what Alex said, the good part is they want to stay, and that seems like half the battle with retaining franchise players like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

If these guys really do enjoy playing in Toronto as much as it seems like they do, then it’s very good news for the Blue Jays. I don’t think that necessarily means Jose and Edwin will sign hometown discounts, but some of the hard work is already done; AA doesn’t need to sell Bautista and Encarnacion on playing in Toronto.

However, it really all depends on what transpires over the next 24 months. If the Blue Jays fail to put a winning team on the field 2015 or 2016, that might be enough for both Bautista and Encarnacion to walk away as free agents.


With the bright lights of free agency looming, these pending deals will be the last big contracts of Jose and Edwin’s careers. That means they may be inclined to sign with a perennial contender, or they just may be wooed by a much bigger deal somewhere else.

I don’t think many would blame either of them if they wanted to finish their career somewhere else, as they’ve certainly stuck around with the Blue Jays long enough on the backs of some very team-friendly contracts.

But it’s nice to know both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion think so
fondly of the Blue Jays organization that they’d at least entertain the
idea of playing out their careers in Toronto.

Image courtesy of Sportsnet

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.