Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
In Toronto, much has been made during the offseason about the Blue Jays’ unwillingness, or inability, to extend the contracts of their electrifying sluggers, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, both of whom will reach free agency at the end of the 2016 season. Considerably less has been made about those players’ unwillingness to more seriously explore taking whatever money might be on the table for them as this campaign begins.
Perhaps that’s understandable, given the incredible consistency the two players have produced with over the last several years—the most striking example of which is Edwin Encarnacion’s wRC+ (“weighted runs created plus,” a single value, league- and park-neutral indicator of a player’s offensive performance relative to league average), which for the four seasons since his 2012 breakout has been 150, 146, 151, and 150.
Not only is it remarkable that those numbers are so similar, it’s remarkable that they’re so high; only superstars Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and Paul Goldschmidt have produced a better wRC+ than Edwin’s 149 mark over that span. Just behind him—and Jose Abreu and Bryce Harper—is Jose Bautista at 146 (league average is 100).
Those numbers are truly elite. Those two deserve to be paid. Hitters like that simply don’t hit the market often, and the two should be helped by the fact that next winter’s is a particularly weak free-agent class. We all know this.