Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
After the two years that the Toronto Blue Jays have just had, you get the sense that they are not going to be able to fly under-the-radar this winter as easily as they have in years past where their finances are concerned. In terms of big, attention-grabbing moments in the US media, there won’t merely be the lone, traditional, self-serving Winter Meetings salvo from Scott Boras about how they ought to spend more, or the odd quizzical look of Ken Rosenthal about why they’re not bigger players on the market.
Or by all rights there won’t.
The baseball world has seen the Jays in their second straight ALCS. The giant, surging crowds at Rogers Centre haven’t gone unnoticed. The term “Toronto loud” has entered the lexicon. The TV numbers have been astonishing.
If the Blue Jays let other teams push them around, financially, it should — and I think will — be a scandal. At least much more so than it has been in years past, where the club and ownership at least could lean on the pretext of not wanting to throw good money after bad. And, of course, the club will have couple of huge test cases to deal with on this front, which is what brings us to the latest from Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.
“The Jays plan to make a play long-term for star first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, and will give give both him and longtime right field star Jose Bautista a qualifying offer (assuming the new CBA still has a provision for qualifying offers),” Heyman writes. “There is a belief around baseball he’ll get four years (at least) as a free agent, and that’s something the Jays might consider, though they’d prefer three. Someone familiar with their thinking said they’d like him to be a ‘bridge’ to their kids down below.”
Most of this sort of stuff we’ve heard before, but the idea of the club wanting to bring back Edwin as a bridge to kids like Rowdy Tellez and Vlad Guerrero Jr., who are still a few years away, is a new one. And one that certainly makes a whole lot of sense for both the Jays and for Encarnacion. Heyman mentioned that Edwin was said to be open to some kind of a hometown discount when the two sides met during the spring, and while he had nothing to report on whether that’s still the case, comments like the ones Eddie made to Hazel Mae after his walk-off home run in the Wild Card game sure make you think it’s at least possible.
A four-year deal would take Encarnacion through his age-37 season. Just fucking do it already! It’s Edwin!
As for Bautista, Heyman notes that because of some of his business ties in Toronto — i.e. Booster Juice and whatever else he’s a pitchman for — he may be able to make more money on the side in Toronto than he could elsewhere, so that’s an advantage for the Jays too, perhaps.
Because of that fact, Heyman explains that “it may not be such a terrible idea for him to take the one-year qualifying offer, which is expected to be for about $17 million, but he’d likely figure there’s a multiyear deal out there for him somewhere.”
Ahh, but do you take whatever multiyear deal that happens to be out there? How do you weigh it against being Jose Bautista in Toronto? Maybe it depends on who’s offering. Or maybe you can convince yourself that you’re worth betting on, and that short-term deal really is in your best financial interest, as well as your best interest as a ballplayer.
So… could the Jays really, actually, seriously end up with both Encarnacion and Bautista back? It feels a touch delusional to think so given that we were about ready to end their Blue Jays careers five or six games ago. But maybe!
If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll at least be competitive with Edwin, and at least make him think real hard about what he’d be leaving behind for a few extra dollars, if it comes right down to it. And they may do a similar thing on a smaller scale with Bautista, too. You really want those three years in Milwaukee, Jose? In Arizona? Shit, in Baltimore? Because you’re not getting yourself that huge payday at the end of them, when you’re about to be 39, but you still might next winter — if you perform like you might be capable of — and then you’ll always remain Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays Icon, and never Jose Bautista, Chicago White Sox Disappointment.
The problem, of course, is locking in more aging, expensive players to a roster that already has Tulo, Martin, and Donaldson on it. But if you can get Edwin signed back up at a reasonable rate, and you can get Bautista into something of a David Ortiz thing, where there’s mutual trust, mutual benefit to keeping the relationship going, and you can maybe go year-to-year or get creative about it? Why the hell not?
Because right now there should be absolutely nothing stopping the Toronto Blue Jays from figuring this out and striking the right balance between making Jose and Edwin happy and maintaining a top notch team with enough flexibility going forward to remain that way.
And if they try to tell us it’s finances, they should catch every bit of figurative hell that’s going to come their way for it.