Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
It’s easy for fans to act like they know what makes a player on their favourite team tick, but it’s usually pretty cringe-worthy when they do so. We see these guys through the filter of the media, the filter of how they want to relate to the media, and mostly silently on TV or at the ballpark for really only seconds at a time. We really have no idea which player on a team might be, say, a totally chill dude genuinely happy with where he is, or a fiercely intelligent ego-driven lover of drama. *COUGH*
That said, it sure seems a whole lot like Jose Bautista is the sort of guy who gets a rise out of being in the hurricane’s eye, and that Edwin Encarnacion maybe just wants to lay back in the sun, floating along through calm seas.
Case in point: Edwin’s utter lack of hubris when speaking to the media Friday in Dunedin about his contract status, a few days after his teammate detonated a national news bomb by telling the world he’s given the Blue Jays an exorbitant number and told them not to bother trying to negotiate.
In the Bautista contract context, I asked Encarnacion if he had a number in mind. “I have a number,” he said. “I wanna hit 40 home runs.”
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) February 26, 2016
Edwin Encarnacion on a potential extension with the Blue Jays pic.twitter.com/jhGO4nKKqU
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) February 26, 2016
OK, so maybe wanting to hit 40 home runs counts as hubris, but still! Edwin also mentioned that he suffered a hernia in July — which apparently didn’t phase him, as he put up an AL-best (and completely insane) wRC+ of 201 after the All-Star break, with a video game slash line of .336/.433/.700 — and the fact that in October his injured hand was nearly intolerable to play through, but he didn’t want to sit out.
What a boss!
He also says that it seems his camp and the Jays will sit down over the next couple of weeks to try to get a deal done. That’s something they’ll have to do, because as you see in the tweet above, he’s standing by his Opening Day deadline for negotiations, claiming that the last time he was headed towards free agency — when he signed a deal in July 2012 that has paid him just $27-million over three years (and 12 WAR) so far, with his $10-million salary for 2016 still remaining — it was too much of a distraction for him.
Now, I’m sure that the positive vibes coming from Edwin don’t mean that his agent isn’t going to be be all business when it comes time to formally hammer something out with the Jays, so we should be a bit careful dreaming on a hometown discount because of what he’s saying about staying in Toronto. However, working out his deal should be a whole lot less uncomfortable than it will be one with Bautista. Edwin stands to earn plenty if he hits free agency, but his market is limited to AL teams because of the need to have him DH so often, as well as concerns about injuries and the aging curve. The financial gamble that the team signing him will have to take will be significantly less than the one that will land Bautista in Arizona.*
And with Jose seemingly hellbent on finding out what the market thinks of him — or, at the very least, not asking for an amount the Jays will be remotely willing to pay right now — the idea of simply locking up Edwin should have a lot of appeal. That is, if the two sides can agree to a mutually beneficial number.
Surely that’s easier said than done. But doing so would potentially snuff out the distraction of both contracts (assuming fans would be realistic enough to understand that a commitment to Edwin would rule out a serious play for Jose barring some kind of unprecedented gift to the club from ownership), and while it would concede losing Bautista to free agency, it would also say to fans, “Don’t listen to this rebuild nonsense — we aim to be good for years beyond 2016, and with Edwin, Donaldson, Tulo, Russell Martin, and others, there’s no reason why we can’t be.”
Hell, it would open the door for the Jays to find some kind of lefty power bat, too, and balance their lineup a little better — and maybe even one that’s under 30 (not Jay Bruce)!
Of course, lineup balance is hardly a reason to consider closing the door on a Bautista extension, but… uh… the money he’s asking for is.
The only thing is, going after Edwin now miiiiiight lock you in earlier than you needed to a player who may not age gracefully, but he’s a tremendous consolation prize for fan base who might prefer to keep the louder and more iconic Bautista, and he’ll leave more dollars in the budget for the club to go after replacements for (or extensions with) their other free agents next winter (Brett Cecil, Drew Storen, and R.A. Dickey among them).
This is sort of what people thought all along, of course. If you paid much attention to media discussions of the contract extension issue over the course of the last year, you’d have heard a lot of people saying that Edwin was likely more amenable to staying, that Jose wasn’t going to be willing to leave a dollar on the table, and that it all meant that a deal with Encarnacion, if less desirable in terms of narrative and star power (and maybe even health, despite his younger age), was more likely. That does indeed seem to be how it’s now playing out.
I think I’m pretty OK with that, actually.
*Oh, who am I kidding? You know he probably craves that pinstripe-y validation.