If given the chance 12 months ago, many people couldn’t re-sign Jose Bautista quickly enough. After his heroics during the 2015 postseason, some were willing to hand over a blank cheque to Bautista.
Fast forward to this offseason; the same could very well be said about Edwin Encarnacion, too. He had his own dramatic moment in the postseason and came off yet another impressive campaign with the Blue Jays. There are subsets of fans that want to give Encarnacion whatever he wants, too.
With that Wild Card-clinching home run fresh in the mind of Blue Jays fans, it seems difficult to fathom this Blue Jays roster without Edwin Encarnacion (and to a lesser extent, Jose Bautista), but that is the circle of life with baseball teams.
There’s a scenario where the Blue Jays back up a money truck and sign Edwin Encarnacion to a four or five-year contract. I for one would be in favour of it. If there’s any player the Jays should sink their money to, it would be Encarnacion.
But this is all I can keep thinking back to; one year ago, people were saying the exact same thing about Jose Bautista. And look at what happened to him this season. Had the Blue Jays met Bautista’s demands in Spring Training, they wouldn’t even be in year one of that new deal and they might already have buyer’s remorse.
We’re completely talking hypotheticals here, but this is the cautionary tale when the blinders are on and people just say “pay the man”.
I had someone message me (thanks, Bianca!) about how Mark Shapiro spoke at Ryerson last week. She told me how Shapiro shared the story of how a fan approached him at a Raptors game, and this fan insisted the Blue Jays needed to bring Edwin Encarnacion back.
I’m paraphrasing this anecdote, but this was the gist of Shapiro’s retort:
“8 months ago it was re-sign Bautista. Now, it’s re-sign Encarnacion. How do we know in another 8 months, that Encarnacion can continue this level of production?”
The truth is … we don’t. Although Edwin Encarnacion is a few years younger than Jose Bautista and EE has managed to stay relatively healthy the past several years, it could all go sideways to second the ink dries on a brand new contract.
It’s the cynical approach to take, but that’s almost the approach that front offices have to take when it comes to re-signing players that have put up big numbers; assume they won’t match that production next year. Then, all of a sudden, those four and five-year contracts start to look pretty scary.
As recently as this past week, I was entrenched in camp “re-sign Edwin”. I’ve already reserved to the fact that Jose Bautista won’t be returning, but I felt like the Jays still have a decent chance of tabling a competitive offer to Edwin Encarnacion.
While that’s all well and good, even if the Blue Jays convince Edwin to come back, the club still has many glaring issues on the diamond: two corner outfield spots and DH .. not to mention the bullpen.
I think Shi Davidi suggested this a few weeks ago, but I’m wondering if the Blue Jays might be better off by hedging their bets and signing several mid-tier guys rather than just blowing their budget on Edwin Encarnacion.
Take the money allocated for a potential EE contract and spread it across several free agent signings. Ink Ian Desmond, Mike Napoli and maybe Carlos Beltran to play outfield and DH … all for much less than what it would take to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion.
There’s a much greater chance on hitting with one of those signings by casting a wide net. That seems like a sound strategy for a team like the Blue Jays which have numerous holes to fill on the roster, and a lot of roster re-tooling to do this offseason.
As incredible as Edwin Encarnacion is, he’s still only one player.
This may be a side effect of the previous Alex Anthopoulos regime, but I’ve been conditioned to believe that there’s always a payroll ceiling. Re-signing Edwin Encarnacion might prevent the Blue Jays from doing other things; not only in 2017, but the duration of any potential long-term contract.
It hearkens back to the Michael Saunders situation as well and how the Jays are likely moving on from him. In order to make themselves a less one-dimensional team, the Blue Jays need to get younger, more agile and balanced in the lineup.
You could argue that bringing back Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista does neither of those things.
This is an odd way to rationalize why the Blue Jays shouldn’t pay big bucks to retain one of their best hitters over the past five years, but the Jays have valid reasons not to bring back Bautista or Encarnacion.