As most of you already know, the Jays have locked up Edwin Encarnacion, a.k.a. El Toro, for the next 3, possibly 4, years. The contract breaks down as follows: $8 million in 2013, $9 million in 2014. $10 million in 2015, and a club option for 2016 worth $10 million. Edwin stated that he loves Canada, loves the Jays and its fan base, and wanted to keep playing with his best friend, Jose Bautista. Sure enough, Jose Bautista’s recently signed deal also includes a club option for 2016 (worth $14 million). Coincidence? I hardly think so, and here’s why it makes things extra interesting.
The Jays have just lined up most contracts they have extended in recent years to end in 2016. Ricky Romero? 2016. Jose Bautista? 2016. Adam Lind? 2016. Edwin Encarnacion? 2016. Ok, Yunel Escobar and Brandon Morrow only got theirs to 2015, but that’s still within a very similar window. The point? Well, if you read the tea leaves, and in this case they’re made of millions of dollars, they indicate that the Jays are set to invest in the next 3 years as if they really do expect to win.
Considering the fact that the “waves of talent” should start to arrive in 2013, the waves being the talent Alex Anthopoulos has promised would arrive in Toronto once his draft classes matured, the scenario is ripe for a major investment by the Jays ownership. Whether it’s picking up soon-to-be Free Agents from clubs that have fallen out of contention, or in making a “sign and trade” style deal, I believe that Alex Anthopoulos now has a “do whatever it takes” card to play from ownership. We all know that Anthopoulos is personally responsible for saving ownership millions when he was able to deal Vernon Wells, amongst other deal savings, while he also minimized the risk ownership undertook in signing its own star players, as shown when he signed Romero, Lind, Morrow, Bautista, and most recently, Encarnacion.
What does all of this mean? Well, I would assess that Anthopoulos will continue to seek out deals that make the most sense to the club for the long term. Meaning that if he does chase down, or trade for, a starting pitcher, pen help, or another bat or two, it would be a player that is under control through 2015-2016 or would come to the Jays cheaply. Meaning, he’s not going to deal a highly ranked prospect (or more) just to go for it in 2012.
Another point that few have brought up is just how potent the Jays top 4 in their lineup is now that the Encarnacion signing is complete. Assuming that Encarnacion continues to hit for power and average as he has in 2012, the Jays now feature what I would call a top 4 in the lineup that ranks within the top 4 in all of MLB. You’ve got the pesky, patient, and energizing force in Brett Lawrie at the top, the newly rejuvenated powerful and speedy bat in Colby Rasmus next, one of the premium players in all of MLB in Jose Bautista next, and what some may call “protection” behind him in Edwin Encarnacion.
In comparison throughout the league, only the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, and Anaheim Angels can compete with that top 4 (in my humble opinion). Should the Red Sox get healthy, their top 4 would compare well, but for now they’re slightly behind. Best of all, however, is the cost and control comparison of the Jays top 4 to the other best groups in MLB. (team with totals for 2013-2016, name of top 4 in lineup with 2013-2016 salary – all figures obtained from Cot’s Baseball Contracts)
Texas top 4: ($34.05m for 3 of 4, $39.725m for 3 of 4, $34m for 2 of 4, $30m for 2 of 4)
Yankees top 4: ($80.5m, $55.5m for 3 of 4, $43.5m for 2 of 4, $42.5m for 2 of 4)
*when Cano moved into top 4, only has 2013 club opt at 13m, so not much changes
Angels top 4: (approx $20m for 3 of 4, approx $26m for 2 of 4, approx $30m for 2 of 4, approx $35m for 2 of 4)
*if Mark Trumbo used in 4-hole should Morales leave, he’ll make minimal amount in ’13, Arb1 to 3 in ’14-’16
Jays top 4: ($26m, $29.8m, $25.5m for 3 of 4, $27m for 3 of 4)
Brett Lawrie ($500k, approx $800, approx $1.5m, approx $3m), Colby Rasmus (arb 2 – approx $3.5m, arb 3 – approx $6m, FA, FA), Jose Bautista ($14m, $14m, $14m, $14m club opt), Edwin Encarnacion ($8m, $9m, $10m, $10m club opt)
As you can see from the figures above, the Jays have the most amount of their top 4 under control through 2016, and they also have the cheapest group overall. Even with the approximated values. The Jays are in an excellent position to use this advantage by being able to concentrate on securing a better bottom half of the lineup. With talents such as Travis d’Arnaud, Anthony Gose, Adeiny Hechavarria, and a multitude of great OF prospects, the Jays are sure to have the money to spend AND the talent to either fill those positions with internal options or to use them as trade pieces if it makes them better overall.
The Edwin Encarnacion signing protects the top of the Jays lineup, ensures team cohesiveness continues to be excellent in the Jays clubhouse, and limits costs to ownership over the next 4-year span (’13-’16). I would expect the Jays to be VERY aggressive in getting the RIGHT players at the bottom of the lineup to supplement that top 4. And if they don’t find what they’re looking for on the trade or FA market, I expect them to be patient and fill those spots internally.
It’s a great signing for Encarnacion, for Anthopoulos, for Jays fans, and most importantly, for the future of the franchise!