Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
No further talks are planned between the Blue Jays and Edwin Encarnacion’s camp, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Or, at the very least, he tweets that it “sounds like” that’s the case “at present.”
But they’re probably not talking! And are we surprised? I don’t think that anybody exactly should be, given what we’ve been hearing throughout the spring about the lack of movement and Edwin’s disappointment about how the sides hadn’t seen eye-to-eye on term.
That doesn’t mean it’s not news, though.
It also doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t still talk. There are still four full days before Sunday’s Opening Day tilt against the Tampa Bay Rays, and Edwin’s self-imposed deadline for talks to be put on hold for the entirety of the 2016 season. And we know that sometimes in negotiation it’s the coming of a deadline that forces two sides to get serious — assuming that’s not just some romanticized notion. But evidently that’s not in the cards here. And really, why would it be?
One assumes that the Jays are holding firm on their offer of two years beyond the one that’s about to commence, while Edwin is looking for something more like four (or so we figure based on the fact that his agent, Paul Kinzer, told the Toronto Sun a week ago that he’s not looking for five — and also that he’s “strong as an ox, he doesn’t have a bad body.”)
If you’re the Jays, the thing about Edwin not having a bad body is sliiiiiightly hard to swallow given that he’s dealt with an oblique issue for the vast majority of the spring, having only gotten into one game (against minor leaguers) so far. And the fact that he played with a painful finger problem throughout the second half of last season. And needed surgery for a sports hernia as soon as the Jays’ season ended. Aaaand the fact that there have been shoulder, leg, back, and wrist injuries that he’s dealt with dating back to the start of 2013.
He’s been a remarkably consistent and remarkably incredible hitter through all that, but those things tend to add up. Or, at the very least, they sometimes can. And while that makes it risky when a team considers signing a player like that in free agency, it’s a whole other level of concern when you’re talking about doing it a full year before the next contract even kicks in. And while the player is already hurt. And coming off a second half of last season in which he played through all that he did.
There is another major factor to this impasse, though, and that’s the fact that the Jays don’t seem to have any idea what their future payroll limitations are going to look like, meaning that locking a guy like Edwin into a long-term, big money deal right now is somehow even riskier still.
Richard Griffin spoke with Jays GM Ross Atkins for a piece published this afternoon at the Toronto Star, and Atkins was either very elusive about where the payroll is going, or genuinely has no idea yet himself.
“I would say that every day is different. Every week is different. Every month is different,” Atkins explained. “For me to project on . . . our ability or inability to sign free agents or renew players or extend players is too difficult to say.”
As I wrote when Edwin told reporters he didn’t think the Jays had him in their plans, as much as we want to believe, and rightly think there’s good reason that the upcoming season is going to be a wonderful, smashing success for the club, it’s just not prudent yet for the front office to be assuming that and tying up massive portions of their future budget in order to keep this old team together.
It would be one thing if Edwin and Jose Bautista were young players who stood to make themselves untold millions of dollars with a breakout campaign here in 2016, but these are aging players whose market value can, realistically, only go down or stay about the same. So why not wait? Why bother making a show of talking again before Sunday when you know — and fully understand why — you’re just not on the same page?
That doesn’t make the thought of losing a game of chicken to one or both of their free agent sluggers next winter any more palatable, and I’m sure it won’t stop a lot of fans from choking on venom over the fact that there hasn’t been more movement on this front, but it’s still the right option.