There was a time not too long ago when Blue Jay fans far too often had to say goodbye to their favourite players. Incredibly though, prior to this off-season and Edwin Encarnacion’s departure, it’s been quite awhile since Toronto parted ways with one of it’s best players. Not since back in 2009 when Roy Halladay was traded to the Phillies. But yet here we find ourselves, just three months removed from the end of the 2016 season, and already Encarnacion has moved on and signed with Cleveland, and it appears that Blue Jays management has little interest trying to get something done with Jose Bautista. It’s one thing to lose a player like Shawn Green or Carlos Delgado…but when Toronto lost those wonderful players, at least it wasn’t in the same off-season like what’s now looking more and more likely with Encarnacion and Bautista.
When and who was the last great Toronto player to actually retire with the Blue Jays? Sure players like Tony Fernandez and Dave Stieb wrapped up their wonderful careers in a Blue Jays uniform, but that was only after coming back to Toronto after being gone for many years. And why is it that a team like the Yankees can retain so many of it’s most important players, guys like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera, whereas Toronto is so quick to move on and part ways with all of it’s best players? The Yankees did have a few things going for them that Toronto didn’t have the luxury of 10-15 years ago, things like an enormous payroll and also the fact that they were a winner which meant their best players never had to leave in search of a winning club. But things are different now…at least I like to think they are and Toronto doesn’t have the same restraints they once had when it comes to retaining their top talent.
I don’t want to play the blame game regarding what happened with Encarnacion, what’s done is done, but Bautista on the other hand still remains a free agent and the possibility of him remaining with the Blue Jays is still there. Everyone knows that Bautista has a tendency to rub some people the wrong way…that he argues with umpires too often and has a knack of getting under the skin of opposing pitchers, but he’s also an incredible ball player and someone who became great at what they do only after becoming a Blue Jay. So what if he played hard ball last spring with the newly arrived Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro in an effort to get a sizable contract extension, that’s all water under the bridge now and can be excused given all he’s done for this organization.
How is it that such an important player to the Blue Jays for the past nine years, someone who hit third in the line-up, racked up 265 home runs with Toronto, and was probably Toronto’s most clutch big game hitter is now all of a sudden so disposable to the team that leaned on him so heavily all these years. If the question for Ross Atkins is what’s more important, a 1st round draft pick or to keep one of the most iconic players to ever play for this franchise, it should be a no brainer. There’s no guarantee the player they draft with the pick they receive if Bautista signs elsewhere will ever even make it to the big leagues. Bautista on the hand is a Blue Jays legend, he can still help this team win ball games (albeit mostly with his bat), and Toronto for once has an opportunity to retain the services of one of its best and most important players instead of seeing him go like every other great player who’s ever played for this ball club.