The Blue Jays are officially out of the Edwin Encarnacion sweepstakes (and likely have been for some time), after the slugger signed a 3 year, $60 million dollar deal with the Cleveland Indians that includes a 4th year club option, and a $5 million dollar buyout
Blue Jays fans can stop dreaming of an Edwin Encarnacion reunion coming under the tree this Christmas. It’s not happening, no matter how many of us included it on our wish lists for Santa.
Adding to the disappointment is the fact that “Edwing” signed for less than the Blue Jays had reportedly offered earlier this spring, and also with the very team that bounced the Jays from the 2016 postseason. Cleveland was already a dangerous team, and now they’re set to add Encarnacion as well a healthy Michael Brantley for the 2017 season.
For the Blue Jays, it signals the end of an era with Encarnacion, and his part in the core that made up the last several years of manager John Gibbons’ lineup card. His possible departure has been well-documented, as has fellow free-agent Jose Bautista‘s. I could ramble on for ages about how Encarnacion’s market played out, but I’ll leave you with this summary:
It’s been suspected that the Blue Jays preferred Encarnacion over Bautista throughout free agency, even after they added Kendrys Morales, another primary designated hitter. It was always unlikely the Blue Jays were ever going to be able to afford to keep both beloved veterans, as each hoped to secure multi-year deals at more than 20 million per season.
Now that Encarnacion has his deal, (I still can’t believe the terms), the Blue Jays can officially move on, even if management had already done so. His signing could kick start the market similar players (see: Bautista, Mark Trumbo, Chris Carter, etc), and force the Blue Jays into making a move sooner than later, if they plan on it.
Of course, the Blue Jays don’t need another 1B/DH, which brings us back to Bautista. Does Edwin signing elsewhere make a Bautista reunion more likely? On the flip side, does it make it less likely?
The Blue Jays still need one of two outfielders, and Bautista could fill the role, at least in the short term. He’s not what the club wanted as far as a defensive upgrade, but he’s been one of the game’s most feared hitters for the better part of a decade.
Encarnacion signing with Cleveland guarantees that Toronto has the money re-up with “Joey Bats” if they desire, and also eliminates one more potential suitor from the market for Bautista. He has expressed a willingness to move to first base in the right situation, and Cleveland no longer has the budget or lineup spot for Bautista.
It’s really hard for fans to let go of a beloved veteran, especially one who helped snap a 22 year playoff drought. He’s a 6 time All-Star, holds the single season club record for home runs (among other Jays’ records), and hit one of the most iconic home runs in franchise history. You don’t forget a guy who has done all of that and more for the club, and the city of Toronto.
That said, the Blue Jays found a way to push sentiment to the side with Encarnacion. If it’s like a band-aid, it’s been ripped off with Thursday’s news, and it could be easier for the fan base to swallow the second time around. Of course, that depends on who you ask:
Bottom line, Encarnacion’s signing likely has very little impact on Bautista’s chances of returning to Toronto either way. If anything, Encarnacion settling for far less than they’d shot for may hurt Bautista’s market further, which could play in Toronto’s favour.
At this stage, Bautista’s list of suitors hasn’t exactly been overflowing. That may change with arguably the best hitter now off the market in Encarnacion, but chances are time and lack of better options for both sides could be the most likely cause of a reunion.