In Blue Jays negotiations, age is just a number
Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair gave Jays fans more information to ponder with his comments on Monday.
There are many variables to consider when it comes to pursuing free agents or signing your own players to extensions. Perhaps one of the most heavily considered is the age and “mileage” on a player, and how that might impact their performance in future seasons. Depending on the position they play, and the skill set they rely on, many former stars are vastly overpaid by the end of their contracts (see: C.C. Sabathia, A-Rod, Carl Crawford, etc).
Age is obviously a hot topic in the Blue Jays camp these days, and likely will be one of the topics that just won’t go away throughout the 2016 season. That is, unless there is a resolution to the pending free agency situations of franchise stalwarts Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
On Monday, Sportnet’s Jeff Blair shed some new light on the topic, and provided a couple interesting thoughts for fans to ponder (let’s face it, there likely won’t be a resolution before Opening day). Blair reiterated what we’ve known for awhile, that the Jays and Encarnacion’s camp are at an impasse over the contract length, and suggested that may not change any time soon.
“….. the guess here is that president and chief executive officer Mark Shapiro’s past record with aging, bad-bodied, one-dimensional designated hitter types, will leave him predisposed to not going beyond two years plus an option for a third”
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Given Encarnacion’s production over the last four seasons, and that he is the younger of the two potential free agents, it seems unlikely that his camp would settle for less than four years. But Blair also offered a second noteworthy comment.
“As for Bautista? I’ve been told the club is willing to be much more flexible for him than Encarnacion both in terms of money and term”
There is some logic to this comment given what each man currently brings to the club. Encarnacion was a disaster at third base early in his career, converted to first, and now spends the majority of his time at DH. He is serviceable at first defensively, but the Jays mostly elect to DH him in order to keep his battered body in the lineup. While Encarnacion has averaged north of 600 at bats over the last 4 seasons, he’s done it by battling through injury. No doubt DH-ing has helped him to do that.
Bautista on the other hand has plenty of defensive value, even at the age of 36. Yes, the defensive metrics show a decline in the outfield, but Bautista is certainly adequate out there, and can also provide value at first, and likely third too, in a pinch. His conditioning regimen has been talked about at length in spring training (agents likely have something to do with that), but there’s no disputing the health track records of the two sluggers.
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So how much does age matter? Encarnacion turned 33 in January, Bautista will be 36 at season’s end. Simple logic would dictate that of the two, Encarnacion is the better choice for a long term contract, give that he’s 2.5 years younger, however, “simple logic” doesn’t work in baseball. According to Blair, age is a relatively small factor in the way the Blue Jays value their current dynamic duo of future free agents, and there appears to be reasonable logic for that.
It’s looking more and more likely that the Jays will only be able to afford one of the two franchise cornerstones. And if that’s the case, and the decision was yours, what would you do? If you could resolve it before opening day by handing out a 5 year contract (granted it’s not that simple), who would you feel more comfortable giving it to, Bautista or Encarnacion? A 33 year old DH/part time 1st baseman, or a 36 year old (by free agency) OF/1B/future DH?
That may be the question the Blue Jays have already been asking themselves, and according to Blair, they may have already answered it too.