Blue Jays: Cruz and Davis deals should frame Encarnacion’s


Blue Jays star Edwin Encarnacion has drawn his line in the sand. The contracts of Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis should help to frame his future negotiations

Edwin Encarnacion has separated his own contract situation from Jose Bautista‘s with the recent report of a Spring Training deadline to negotiate an extension. Perhaps it’s an inconvenience for the Blue Jays new regime, but from Edwin’s side of the table, this is smart business.

The 2016 season is very unlikely to give his open market value a drastic shot in the arm as Encarnacion’s past four seasons have been extremely consistent. Despite the tag that he remains injury-prone, Edwin’s managed to grind through most minor issues and play a minimum of 128 game in each season since 2012, topping 140 in three of four.

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His positional limitations will cap Encarnacion’s value somewhat, more so in the National League, but with this level of production for a premiere right-handed power bat hitting the market at 33, he’ll be a free agent that 20-plus teams discuss seriously. Given another year of bankrolling with the record profits around the league, available money will only continue to grow for splash free agent signings. Question is: what’s Edwin worth to the Blue Jays?

Let’s start with an absolute basement floor of Nelson Cruz, whose four-year, $57 million contract signed prior to 2015 should be topped with ease. Keep in mind that Encarnacion has been producing on an extremely team friendly salary, collecting a sum of just $30.5 million over these past four seasons.

Cruz was coming off a breakout season with the Orioles that saw him launch 40 home runs in 2014, and hit 22 or more in five straight seasons with the Texas Rangers prior to that. Encarnacion’s numbers have rested at an elite level longer, however, and he stands above Cruz as a much more complete hitter. Also: steroids!

If we can eliminate that as the floor, perhaps Victor Martinez‘s deal signed last offseason is a better place to start. The Tigers slugger, who is set to turn 37 later this month, signed a four-year, $68 million deal last offseason. Martinez was coming off a 32 home run season with a .974 OPS, a mark that Encarnacion has never reached, but the consistency of his performance isn’t close. Coming in much younger than Martinez, Eddie shouldn’t struggle to top the annual average salary of $17 million. And for what it’s worth, Martinez put up a -2.0 WAR in his first year of the deal (Gulp).

On to Chris Davis then, who lurks atop the current market as the top power bat available at just 29 years old. He’ll also see his value have fewer limitations than Encarnacion’s due to his abilities at multiple positions in the field.

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After a down year in 2014 that included a suspension for what Davis claimed was Adderral, the chipmunk-cheeked tobacco enthusiast (blehhh) bounced back with 47 home runs this past season, good for 117 RBI and a .917 OPS. When paired with his 2013 season of 53 home runs and a mammoth 1.004 OPS, his counting stats can overwhelm those of Encarnacion. Even with teams needing to accept that Davis has 200-strikeout potential each and every season.

Davis should find himself with a deal of at least five years, and it’s safe to expect an annual salary of $20 million or more. Given Encarnacion’s excellent (and underrated) track record, not to mention the hungrier and richer market waiting in 2016, extending Edwin should take a contract closer to Davis than Martinez.

For the sake of conversation, let’s assume that Chris Davis signs a deal worth $23 million annually. Understanding that Martinez is earning $17 million annually, does that not point to Encarnacion falling on the richer side of the even split and topping $20 million? Going a step further, if Martinez can grab a four-year deal at that age and Davis is able to push for a sixth year, what’s to stop Encarnacion from seeking a fifth?

There’s been a knee-jerk reaction over the past 24 hours that Encarnacion is being selfish here, or that Toronto should look to move him, but there’s not much logic behind either belief. Encarnacion is putting himself (and family) in a spot to maximize his earning value, as he absolutely should, and a no-trade claus makes the trading part, well, difficult.

Next: Rumor Mill: Jays talking trade with Milwaukee Brewers?

With both Encarnacion and Bautista, the only situation where a trade would enter the same universe as possible would be if Toronto utterly tanks, and is in a clear-cut sellers role on July 31st. Then, the two may choose to waive the clauses and use a second playoff run to increase their market appeal. That situation seems highly unlikely, however, and they’d be out of their minds to leave the MLB’s best lineup for producing counting stats in a contract year.

Seeing both players walk and taking two draft picks in return at the end of 2016 is more possible than many would like to accept, but for now, keep an eye on the Chris Davis negotiations. The higher those climb, the more flexibility Encarnacion will gain in his asking price.