Posted on November 19, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
On Friday, the Toronto Blue Jays finally made the signing of DH Kendrys Morales official, and GM Ross Atkins says the team is far from finished making moves this offseason. Specifically, the Blue Jays have not ruled out re-signing either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion. Atkins does admit that in the wake of the Morales signing, Bautista or Encarnacion returning is “less likely,” but Toronto’s GM is not yet ready to close the door on those two long-time Blue Jays.
“It makes things slightly less likely for Edwin, but doesn’t impact us on Jose in any way,” Atkins said about the signing of Morales. “We still feel that both are realistic for us, but when you sign someone like Kendrys Morales, that does decrease the likelihood of Edwin coming back to the Blue Jays. But it by no means eliminates that possibility.”
Morales figures to be a full-time DH for the Blue Jays next season, a role that Encarnacion is likely to play for whatever team ends up signing him. But both Encarnacion and Morales have enough experience playing first base to think that the Blue Jays could potentially find room for both of them, even if that scenario isn’t ideal defensively. There is also some concern about Encarnacion holding up physically if he plays the field every day. As of right now, Justin Smoak would figure to be Toronto’s regular first baseman after signing an extension with the Blue Jays during the season.
Earlier in the offseason, the Blue Jays were reportedly making a strong push for Encarnacion, but could not close the deal. However, Atkins says the Blue Jays are still pursing Encarnacion even after signing Morales. “I would love to tell you guys every detail of exactly how the negotiations transpired, but they’re ongoing, they’re still continuing,” Atkins told reporters. “We’re going to continue to stay in touch with (Encarnacion’s agent) Paul Kinzler. We’re going to stay in touch with Edwin. There are different opportunities and different alternatives that present themselves. What happened with Kendrys Morales is, we felt we had a deal that we liked and a player we wanted to acquire, and it made our team better.”
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are also looking for outfield help, which means that re-signing Bautista or Michael Saunders remains on the table. As it stands now, the Blue Jays have an outfield of Melvin Upton Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Ezekiel Carrera, which would be strong defensively but lacks power. Youngster Dalton Pompey and Cuban defector Lourdes Gurriel may also be options. Nevertheless, the Blue Jays are expected to sign at least one outfielder this winter.
It’s believed that Toronto’s interest in retaining Bautista is waining, but he and Saunders both appear to be viable options. “(Saunders) is by no means off our radar,” said Atkins. “What we’re doing is trying to understand all of our alternatives and what the costs are and then trying to piece together the best possible scenario, to build the best team. But he is squarely on our radar. We will continue to try and make our team better any way that we can, and he is certainly an alternative.”
After completing the signing of Morales on Friday, the Blue Jays may not be in a rush to make another major move until the Winter Meetings in early December. However, the wheels are clearly churning with regard to Atkins and the Blue Jays making another notable signing this offseason, and it’s not out of the question that Encarnacion, Bautista, or Saunders could be that player.