Edwin Encarnacion’s bizarre free agency continues to be the fuel of the Toronto Blue Jays’ winter hot stove, and as Christmas nears, there seems to be a near-endless supply.
This is largely thanks to Paul Kinzer, Encarnacion’s agent who made his rounds again on Wednesday to express optimism in his client’s market and push aside any belief that they are panicking.
Late Wednesday, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported that the Blue Jays, along with the Astros, Rangers, Athletics, and Cleveland have all made multi-year offers to Encarnacion. This shift from agent talk to a report is where the conversation becomes more interesting.
“Negotiations are continuing at a rapid pace for two of the teams as he is clearly recognized as an impact bat and a difference maker especially for pennant contenders,” the report continues. “All offers have been multi-year offers and a few have included an opt out year after year one.”
What is immediately unclear here is whether Toronto’s reported multi-year offer is in reference to their original four-year, $80 million proposal that has long since been taken off the table (the lack of suggestion elsewhere that the Blue Jays remain involved at a multi-year level suggests that this is very likely the case). Until clarification is provided, nothing further should be assumed on that front in relation to the Blue Jays.
“Rockies are monitoring market for Edwin Encarnacion while Marlins are passing because of price and unwillingness to surrender first round pick,” Bowden added later. “Indians, Rangers and Athletics most likely teams to sign him according to sources close to the negotiations.”
The particularly relevant part of Bowden’s information is the opt-out clause, which is a variable that I expect to become a larger part of the conversation surrounding Encarnacion leading up to his eventual signing. Jayson Stark suggested the same earlier on Wednesday:
“Amazing how many people in MLB predict Edwin Encarnacion will end up in Texas despite denials from the Rangers,” he wrote here at ESPN. “Guess is $51-55M for 3 with front-loaded money and a first-year opt-out. Sounds like the Yoenis Cespedes template from last winter!”
Opt-out clauses are something that Mark Shapiro spoke specifically to earlier this year, telling Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith that he’d be against an opt-out clause in eight out of ten cases.
“I do think that there are unique circumstances which probably don’t benefit me to discuss in depth where I say ‘yeah that makes a lot of sense in this circumstance,'” Shapiro added. “Maybe where a player is contractually, there’s not quite the ability to get the length of contract he wants out there, so he gets a contract that the club feels is a good length and yet also gets a counter-ability to opt out in a shorter period of time and go back out if he thinks that benefits him.”
Granted, that description does seem to loosely fit the scenario that Encarnacion now finds himself in.
An opt-out clause would represent more of a comfortable middle-ground in his now-depleted market, allowing Encarnacion to re-enter the market after another strong season — perhaps with an altered game plan and new representation — or remain on his existing deal if his value truly does regress.