With the MLB being stuck in a lockout situation right now, the Blue Jays could find a creative way to get themselves back into the news cycle. It would probably be even more appropriate if they waited until a new CBA is in place, but I have an idea for a feel-good story, and since there we don’t have much else to talk about in the baseball world these days I figured I’d share.
Even if nothing can happen right now, the nerdy baseball fan in me can’t help but look at the free agents that remain unsigned, or even think about trades that could happen once a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place. Most of the time this kinda daydreaming is about ways that the Blue Jays could improve the roster, but lately I’ve been thinking about something more in the sentimental vein.
So here’s my idea: I would love to see the Blue Jays sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to one-day contracts so they can officially end their MLB careers with the organization and the fan base that considers them to be their own.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that either player would actually participate in the 2022 season, but rather that they could go the one-day route and then officially retire. To my knowledge Bautista has never officially called it a career, and we even saw him playing for Team USA’s Olympic Qualifier team earlier in 2021, so who knows if he’s ready to admit that his days in the big leagues are done or not. His last MLB appearance was in 2018 with the Phillies, and he also played with the Mets and Braves that year as well.
As for Encarnacion, he played in 44 games for the White Sox during the 60-game season in 2020, but did not find a suitor last winter when he was a free agent. Since he’ll be 39 in January and is a year removed from baseball, I’d be surprised to see him seeking another contract. That said, not even a year ago he was talking about playing two more seasons in pursuit of 500 career home runs, but who knows how he’s feeling about that these days.
If the Jays wanted to do something like this while the lockout is going on they could always sign these two players to MiLB contracts. It’s a formality anyway, and it would allow for a nice ceremony where they could gather some (likely limited) media and celebrate the last generation of this team that found success. While Bautista and Encarnacion never made it to the World Series, they were huge components of the 2015 and 2016 teams that brought playoff excitement back around the franchise for the first time since the early 90’s.
If they would rather wait until the league opens up a bit more, that could allow for the Covid numbers and restrictions in Canada to level off, and also bring back the young stars that make up the current roster. As much as I’d love to see something like this while we’re waiting for a new CBA, I’ll readily admit that it would be better to do when you could bring guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette into the ceremony as well.
The first step for something like this to work would be to see if Bautista and Encarnacion would be interested in such a thing, and who knows where they’d be on something like that. It was a nice touch to the end of Roy Halladay’s career when he “came back” to the Blue Jays before hanging up his cleats, and I’d love to see the same thing for two of Toronto’s best from the 2010 decade.
It’s entirely possible that one or both could end up on the “Level of Excellence” at the Rogers Centre some day, but for now it would be fun to find a way to honour a couple of former Blue Jays. Maybe I’m just bored and missing baseball these days, but I think it’s a good idea anyway.