Blue Jays GM Atkins insists club in discussions with Encarnacion

The Blue Jays general manager adds that the team fully respects the deadline that Encarnacion has set at the end of spring training

The spotlight in Toronto has shifted from Jose Bautista‘s contract negotiations to those of Edwin Encarnacion. For this week, at least.

Shortly after returning to spring training drills from dealing with an abscessed tooth, Encarnacion has been shut down for at least one week with an oblique issue. Appearing Thursday morning on the Jeff Blair Show, manager John Gibbons suggested that if Encarnacion experiences any setbacks, his opening day availability could come into question.

After a lengthy silence from the organizational side, general manager Ross Atkins joined Blair later in the show to discuss Toronto’s longtime designated hitter.

“We have spent time talking to him about his interests,” Atkins said. “We’ve talked to him about some of ours. We’re not going to get in the details of the negotiation but absolutely we are having discussions with him. And that deadline is his. And we absolutely respect that 100 percent.”

Atkins added that he and president Mark Shapiro agree with Encarnacion, in a sense, as they prefer not to drag negotiations into the season.

“That is a huge distraction and I’m blown away by players’ ability to handle it,” he told Blair. “We’ll let Edwin drive that. That would be our preference. It seems like it is his. To me and Mark, in any negotiation to have hardline black-and-whites is never a good thing. We never burn bridges or close doors and always respect parameters and boundaries.”

Like Bautista’s negotiations, the unique nature of Encarnacion’s make it incredibly difficult to estimate where the organization stands in terms of both years and financial commitment. Bob Elliot did report on Tuesday, however, that an “Encarnacion loyalist” had told him that the Blue Jays offered him “a one-year offer at the winter meetings and then a two-year offer.”

Two years for Encarnacion, obviously, is not going to happen.

The reality is, however, we’re just over two weeks away from that deadline, and without any real traction in negotiations, expectations should be extremely low here.

Again, Encarnacion (or Bautista) entering the season without an extension is not an exclusively bad thing, but day by day, it’s beginning to look more likely.