Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Edwin Encarnacion wants more years on his next deal than the Blue Jays are willing to offer — or so says Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, according to a tweet on Tuesday from Jamie Campbell. The recent talks between the two sides, we’re told, did not go well.
Rojas has a piece (in Spanish) at ESPN Deportes that elaborates, with Edwin telling him that the two sides haven’t really begun talking about money, since they just aren’t on the same page when it comes to years.
This is… unsurprising. But maybe a little surprising.
The last time we talked about Edwin, we were feeling pretty good. His agent had stated (for what little such proclamations are worth) unequivocally that he likes it in Toronto, that he wants to be in Toronto, and that he’s thought about his legacy and wants to see his name up on the Jays’ ring of honour some day.
Add that to the fact that he’s got a somewhat limited market due to his need to DH, and that injury and aging red flags will likely keep him out of the mega-contract range, and it felt like coming to an agreement palatable to both Edwin the Jays might genuinely be within reach.
It certainly should be an easier number to swallow than whatever Jose Bautista will be demanding.
But just because it’s going to be a smaller number doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less difficult for the two sides to agree on what’s fair. Or what the market next winter might bear.
I remember thinking something north of the Victor Martinez contract — a four-year, $68-million deal signed in November 2014 — ought to be pretty reasonable for both sides. “If I were the Jays I’d be trying real hard to make it just a three-year deal, but I think I could concede the fourth,” I said in a comment that day. The trouble with that, and with the Martinez comp, of course, is that Martinez signed that deal as he headed into his age-36 season. Edwin turned 33 in January, and so will be 34 in his first free agent year.
You can understand, then, why Edwin’s camp would balk at the suggestion of Martinez as a comp — though the counter from the Jays could conceivably be that Dave Dombrowski gives out dumb contracts, that the Martinez contract is bad and dumb, and that the four-year, $57-million deal Nelson Cruz got from Seattle last year (at the same age as Edwin will be next winter, albeit with a much lesser track record than Edwin and a 2013 PED suspension hanging over him) is a pretty reasonable starting point.
Chris Davis of the Orioles is currently heading into his age-30 season, and the first year of a new seven-year, $161-million contract, but you can’t imagine anyone seriously believing that’s a realistic comp either. I love Edwin, but seven years? Six years? Even five years? I don’t think so.
His age might be only 33 right now, but it truly feels like he’s an old 33. This year he’s already dealing with an oblique issue that’s going to keep him out another week before he can get his spring underway. He says he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but that was basically the scenario last year, too, and it took him a month of the season to get going (he had a wRC+ of 63 in April).
He returned to being beyond awesome when it counted, down the stretch last year, but we know he was playing through a finger injury at that point. But that wasn’t the only injury he played through. According to his TSN.ca player page, while he didn’t hit the DL in 2015, he missed 8 games due to the finger injury, and also was forced to sit out a handful of games because of a shoulder problem and a leg issue (both in June).
In 2014 he missed 33 games with a quadriceps strain, and dealt with a tight back that also forced him to miss at least one game (and kept him off the field at first base for more). In 2013 it was a hamstring issue and then a wrist injury that sent him to the DL.
It’s always something, it seems. And though he’s always managed to be great anyway, do you expect those sorts of minor injuries to disappear or improve as he ages? No, you probably have to expect that they’ll at least continue, and will probably come more frequently.
That is surely at the root of the disagreement over years, and it makes the cynical part of me wonder: are we maybe hearing this now from Edwin because the Jays have essentially said, “You want to ask us for five years, starting next year, and bet on your health this season not undoing a whole bunch of the value that you hold right now? Hooooookay then!”
Obviously I’m no expert, and I have no access to information that would allow someone to properly assess what all those injuries might necessarily mean for Edwin’s long-term ability to stay on the field, but that would seem to me to be a pretty reasonable stance for the Jays to take (even if Edwin is only asking for four years, frankly).
But with there still being three weeks to the self-imposed negotiation deadline, and time in the winter (or possibly over the All-Star break) to keep talking, why would we expect the sides be close at this point?
In other words: meh. It will work itself out one way or the other. (Pay him, though.)