Baseball may be a game of big-money contracts, but players don’t always go to the highest bidders. If that were the case, every free agent would sign in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.
Free agents have the right to hold out for as much money as possible, but sometimes, money isn’t a driving factor for them. That seems odd in a sport which has no salary cap – where players sign for hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the allure of endless cash may not be as appealing for everyone.
Enter Edwin Encarnacion.
The man is in line for a multi-year contract, likely in excess of 100 million dollars. He is one of the most coveted names on the market this offseason. This winter, the free agent crop will collectively fetch hundreds of millions of dollars, but it might not be all about the money when it comes to Edwin.
There are many that believe it’s only a foregone conclusion that Encarnacion will sign with the Red Sox. After David Ortiz essentially lobbied for Edwin Encarnacion to replace him as DH in Beantown, it was settled; the Red Sox would empty their wallet and bring Encarnacion over to Boston.
There’s one major factor which we may have been forgetting the whole time: fit and the familiarity factor.
Encarnacion stated on numerous occasions about his desire to come back to Toronto. Admittedly, prospective free agents do this all the time – nobody ever publicly prospects their next landing spot before exiting their current one – but something about Edwin’s sentiment seems genuine.
Edwin Encarnacion is balancing two goals as he weighs the Blue Jays early pitch to keep him; one is his desire to stay in Toronto, which he loves, while the other to make the most out of this contract, which he figures may be his last, a person close to him said.
If that’s truly the case, then the Blue Jays have a lot of leverage in these negotiations. That doesn’t mean Edwin Encarnacion will necessarily take a hometown discount – but the familiarity factor is one distinct advantage the Blue Jays have over everybody else.
If there’s one player on the list of the Blue Jays’ list of outgoing free agents where this is most applicable, it’s arguably Edwin Encarnacion (maybe to a slightly lesser extent: Brett Cecil). Money is money, but for select few, familiarity can be priceless.
I don’t doubt that the Blue Jays could table a competitive offer to Edwin Encarnacion. The front office at least owes it to themselves to try to retain Encarnacion. Even if Edwin really wants to be in Toronto and even if the Blue Jays are adamant about going in a completely different direction, the Jays should at least entertain the idea of a reunion.
If that 5-year/125 million dollar asking price has any credence to it, I’d be more inclined to walk away from the negotiating table and instead shift focus towards signing someone else or making a big trade (Joey Votto, anyone?).
The Toronto Blue Jays may be the right fit for Edwin Encarnacion – but is Edwin Encarnacion the right fit for the Toronto Blue Jays? The answer will be revealed soon enough.