The Toronto Blue Jays have eight players that may become free agents at the end of the year, but two of them take precedence over all others; 1A being Jose Bautista and 1B being Edwin Encarnacion.
If Bautista is the groom waiting at the altar, Encarnacion is right there as the best man … secretly hoping the bride has second thoughts.
Bautista and Encarnacion are two players whose fates are seemingly tied together; both blossomed into superstars during their meteoric rise with the Blue Jays. Now both guys are pining for their next big contracts, and they’re going about it in very different ways.
While Jose Bautista took a very aggressive stance on contract negotiations (or the lack thereof), Edwin Encarnacion arrived to Spring Training camp and addressed the media in a very non-confrontational way.
The fact that Edwin even held a press conference says a lot because he very rarely speaks with the media. I can only think back to his contract extension press conference and a postgame interview after the Jays clinched the AL East. As far as I can remember, those are the only times Encarnacion has spoken on camera.
So when Edwin Encarnacion holds court with reporters, you can be sure it’s for a very good reason. And today’s scrum was surely meant to reaffirm his intentions on re-signing with the Blue Jays.
After all that’s transpired this week, I wonder if the Blue Jays might be better off shifting their focus to re-signing Edwin Encarnacion rather than Jose Bautista. Judging by his tone, Edwin seems much more receptive to negotiations, while Jose is adamant of a figure and term and isn’t willing to budge off it.
Edwin Encarnacion also told the media he would love to end his career as a Blue Jay. Now, that may just be lip service, but I can’t recall Jose Bautista making similar remarks earlier this week.
Also, Edwin Encarnacion seems genuine in his intentions to stay with the Blue Jays. He set the Opening Day deadline for a contract extension because he doesn’t want to be distracted, and Encarnacion said that the mid-season negotiations last time around did affect him.
This isn’t some arbitrary date; Edwin Encarnacion simply wants to focus on his game and doesn’t want his future with the team looming overhead. That really humanizes him and makes him very relatable to fans.
Jose Bautista on the other hand … not so much. In light of his comments on Monday, it feels like the momentum has slowly shifted out of Bautista’s corner and the “pay him whatever he wants” campaign has lost quite a bit of momentum.
That’s likely in part to Bautista’s candor and often brash approach with the media, but in the court of public opinion, I don’t think Jays fans are lobbying wholeheartedly for Jose to stick around anymore.
I won’t debate the fact that Jose Bautista is the better player between him and Edwin Encarnacion, but if Bautista isn’t even open to negotiation or has put forth ridiculous demands, the Blue Jays may have no choice but to focus their efforts on Encarnacion instead.
Also keep in mind that it’s going to take much less to retain Edwin Encarnacion than Jose Bautista. At this point, Encarnacion is about 80% of the way to becoming a full-time DH. Not only would he command less dollars, but the term would be much shorter.
I’m just spitballing here, but something like three years and somewhere in the $69-$75 million dollar range seems very reasonable to retain Edwin Encarnacion’s for the next three seasons.
Encarnacion may be the Blue Jays’ second choice next to Bautista, but if the Jays can’t come to an agreement with Joey Bats, they’re better off bringing back Edwin … rather than neither of them at all.
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