With all the news circulating recently about what’s going to happen with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, everyone and their mother seems to think they know what’s best for the Blue Jays to do. Sign him…don’t sign him…pay him whatever he wants…from the fans perspective, some are saying to pay Encarnacion whatever he’s asking for, while others are suggesting they need to try and get a deal done, as long as they don’t overpay. Considering what the Blue Jays were able to accomplish after acquiring David Price towards the end of the 2015 season, I more than anyone wanted Toronto to do as much as they possibly could to try and lock him up to a long-term deal. I understood that the asking price would be steep (I assumed around $30 M/year), but I thought maybe if Toronto came in with an offer at around $25-27 million/year for 6-7 years that maybe something could get done. As perfect a fit as Price seemed to be for Toronto in 2016, not many could have predicted the disaster of a season he’d have this year. For Price’s and Boston’s sake, hopefully he can rebound in 2017, but if 2016 was just the beginning of a downward slide for Price, then that’s a contract few teams, especially a budget conscious club like Toronto could afford to be saddled with while still trying to build a competitive team around him.
What happened last year with me and many other Jays fans who wanted Toronto to re-sign Price is the exact same thing that’s happening yet again this off-season with Encarnacion. At 33 years of age (he’ll turn 34 in January), Encarnacion should have at least a few good years left in him, but many believe Toronto should pay him whatever he feels he deserves, and aren’t even considering the long-term consequences of issuing such a huge contract to a player in their mid 30’s. We all know what happened with David Price this season after he signed his big deal. Imagine if Toronto had been able to get a deal done for Price (like most fans wanted), the Jays then would never have gone out and signed J.A. Happ, and chances are Toronto doesn’t even make the post-season in 2016 if they have Price instead of Happ.
It’s fair to say that both Encarnacion and Bautista have for the past five seasons been making far less than they could have been getting elsewhere, and because of this, now they really want max-dollar for their services. Well, for a budget conscious team like the Blue Jays, when a great player like this starts demanding such monster numbers, it becomes a very scary deal for them to make, especially with a player who’s production is more than likely to slip over the next 4-5 years. When a Blue Jay fan yells at me that “TORONTO’S GOT TO SIGN ENCARNACION TO A 5 YEAR DEAL FOR $25 MILLION/YEAR!!”, it scares the bejesus out of me, and not just because the person is shouting and has veins popping out of their neck. If you were to guarantee me that Encarnacion is going to hit .270 AVG 40 HR 110 RBI for the next five seasons, I might consider paying him what a team like the Yankees or Red Sox will probably end up offering him, which should be somewhere around $25 million/year for 5 years. But at his age, you can’t guarantee that he’ll have those kind of numbers…which is why for a team like Toronto, all they can reasonably do is offer to pay him less (say $20 million/year) and for fewer years (4 years instead of 5).
When it comes to these sort of big contracts, especially for players entering the final stages of their career, teams need to tread carefully when bowing to the demands of such a player and his agent. With older players like Encarnacion and Bautista, Toronto can’t risk taking a chance on either of these players if they feel the price is too steep and will handicap them later on when it comes time to completing large deals for other players. Just like Toronto couldn’t have afforded to make a mistake with David Price, the same thing goes with Encarnacion and Bautista. Three or four years from now, if Encarnacion or Bautista aren’t producing close to what they have in recent years (which is very probable given their age) and Toronto’s paying them $25 million/year, then that hurts Toronto’s chances of building a winner in the future. If Toronto ends up signing Encarnacion and Bautista for more money and to longer deals than they’re comfortable with, than they just end up making the same mistake the Yankees dug themselves into with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and C.C. Sabathia.