Posted on November 8, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
With nine free agents this offseason, it’s possible that the Toronto Blue Jays could look a lot different in 2017 than the team that has advanced to the ALCS in back-to-back years. Toronto’s potent lineup could be altered significantly with sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both on the verge of testing the free agent market. However, according to reports early in the offseason, the Blue Jays are already making a hard push to re-sign Encarnacion.
Encarnacion is one of 10 players who have received a qualifying offer of $17.2 million, but it’s unlikely that he will accept that offer so that he can test the open market. However, the Blue Jays have made it a point to actively engage in contract talks with him in hopes of keeping Encarnacion in Toronto. Encarnacion is said to be interested in remaining with the Blue Jays, but he recognizes that this may be his only chance to cash-in with a long-term deal, so it’s unlikely Toronto will get the benefit of a home-team discount.
Paul Kinzer, Encarnacion’s agent, believes that close to a dozen teams could have interest in signing the slugger, and with that much interest, Encarnacion could end up signing a deal worth as much as $125 million over five years. “He proved this year that he is a solid first baseman and I think that will make him attractive to National League teams as well [as those in the American League],” says Kinzer. “The market will dictate what he gets, but I would like to see him get five years. Chris Davis has seven years and $20 million (per year). I think Edwin could be a $25 million guy.”
It’s possible that Kinzer is over exaggerating a bit for the benefit of his client, but it’s hard to deny that Encarnacion is one of the few impact bats on the free agent market this winter. Even if Encarnacion doesn’t quite get $25 million per season, it’s conceivable that he could sign for close to $100 million. Of course, Kinzer may not be exaggerating when he says that more than 10 teams could show interest in Encarnacion, as there have already been whispers linking him to both the Rangers and Red Sox.
Thus, the Blue Jays have made it a point of emphasis early in the offseason to speak to Encarnacion in hopes of re-signing him quickly before he has a chance to have advanced talks with other teams. Toronto is said to be on the fence about how badly they want to re-sign Bautista, but clearly Encarnacion is a priority, as he’s younger than Bautista and should hold up better over the course of a long-term deal.
If the Blue Jays can’t re-sign Encarnacion, they do have Justin Smoak to handle first base, as well as Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki to provide plenty of power. However, Toronto doesn’t have an obvious choice to be their DH in 2017, a role either Bautista or Encarnacion would fit perfectly. The Blue Jays have reportedly made progress in talks with Encarnacion, but there’s nothing to indicate that a deal is imminent at this time. For now, Encarnacion remains a free agent with a world of possibilities.