Anthopoulos: Blue Jays could look at extensions for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion

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Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has never been one to bow to the demands of public opinion. He’s constantly going to view every possible scenario and take the one he feels is best for the Blue Jays.

Such was the case on Thursday night, when Alex Anthopoulos made an appearance on Prime Time Sports with Stephen Brunt and Bob McCown. While the conversation took many angles and covered a host of topics, there was one bit that was very interesting that may comes as a bit of a surprise to some Blue Jays fans out there.

With some of our core players, everybody always points to and asks about Bautista and Encarnacion.

"“You look at a guy like Bautista: he’s 33-years-old right now, he’s someone that if you look his body type and his work ethic and the way he takes care of himself, I expect him to be a productive player until his late thirties or even forty. I certainly know he’s going to have the desire to do that. And you look at whether it’s the Raul Ibanezes, or Edgar Martinezes, or even a guy like Carlos Beltran or a guy like David Ortiz, those guys into their mid-to-late thirties are highly productive.And Encarnacion is, I believe, 31, and because they have two years left on their contracts, a year and an option, that certainly doesn’t eliminate the possibility that we don’t sit down with those guys at some point and start adding on some years. So it’s not strictly a two-year window with those guys. they have two years currently, but we think they’re going to be productive for a long time and they absolutely can be part of another wave here, another core for four or five years beyond that.”"

Wow, that’s a big bomb to drop at this point in the season. While every pundit on the planet is already writing the Blue Jays off and finding ways to deconstruct the roster, here is the Blue Jays general manager publicly saying that the team is not looking to unload the middle of their batting order, but rather to ensure it sticks around for a few years more than planned.

Now, I have two different trains of thought on this statement.

Firstly, if a general manager wants the fan base to continue to buy into the team and to also ensure that they are aware the youth movement doesn’t signal a tear down, this is a brilliant decision. It lets the fans know that the core of the team will stay intact and that the influx of youth will be done at a controlled measure to ensure that the Jays stay competitive.

Keeping the pair allows the Blue Jays to pursue greater needs for the team while ensuring that the two most important spots in the line-up are stocked full for the duration.

Secondly, it moves the first chess piece against opposing general managers. Given how close both Bautista and Encarnacion are to gaining 10/5 status, which would grant them full no-trade rights, this would certainly be the time to move them. However, by flouting that they are willing to extend the pair, the Blue Jays are essentially raising the price tag on their two sluggers.

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That all said, I’m mixed here. I like the idea of keeping them as the focal core of the team while the rising young talent comes up and helps infuse the team for a few years to come. However, I also recognize the trade value that both will have on the current market, especially with power always in demand and in short supply.

I’m also a bit torn as to whether either player would give the Blue Jays the same below market deals in any extension talks. Bautista will be 35 during his last option year, and Encarnacion will be 33. Bautista will likely be looking for at minimum a 4-year deal, while Encarnacion will seek a 5-6 pact, especially if he continues on his current career trajectory. That will have the Blue Jays paying for both as they crest the 40-year-old plateau, a mark that seldom bears out well for sluggers.

That makes it a question of whether or not the best tactical decision to make it to have this core around during the prime years of the incoming youth or whether their age and their contracts will weigh down on adding the necessary pieces to make those years of Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, Dalton Pompey, and other more fruitful.

It’s not going to be an easy decision to make for the Blue Jays as they approach this offseason. Undoubtedly, that choice will play a bit part in how Toronto goes about its Hot Stove business.

I don’t envy them the decision one bit.

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