So slugger Edwin Encarnacion doesn't think contract talks are going so well.
Saturday, during a rained out spring training game, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun managed to talk Double-E about his on-going contract negotiations to which he offered a fairly bleak response.
"I want to stay here," Encarnacion says. "I'm really disappointed that nothing has happened, but it's not my decision. They don't have it in their plans for me to stay here."
His agent, Paul Kinzler, offered the Jays an ultimatum at the start of spring: Sign my client before the end of spring or he enters free agency. To this, the Jays offered a two-year contract; one that Edwin obviously declined to sign.
In all likelihood, there's a strong chance he won't sign a deal before the end of spring. In reality, there's an even stronger chance he won't sign one at all.
But what does that mean? Can the Jays afford that? Should they give him the term length his recent history would seem to request?
The sad answer is no.
Similar to teammate Jose Bautista, Edwin has been on a quite team friendly contract since 2013 but, similar to Bautista, that's not the team's fault. It doesn't mean that the Jays should be required to compensate for Encarnacion playing over his contract value. That's not how business works.
Unlike Bautista though, Encarnacion doesn't have nostalgia on his side. He didn't hit the game-winning home run in the biggest moment of his career during Game 5 of the playoffs. He doesn't have the charisma, the sheer magnetism, that accompanies nearly every move of Joey Bats. Despite being two years his junior, he might not even have the contract Bautista does at the end of the day.
At 34-years-old, it's almost never a good idea to give into the idea of offering a player a five year plus contract; a term Encarnacion would no doubt be pushing for in free agency.
Sure Edwin was incredible last season--producing a career high 4.5 WAR--but how long can we expect that potential to be on the field? Baseball Prospectus' forecast system projects that Encarnacion will begin his gradual decline this season with his WARP (their version of WAR) dropping to 2.5, a full win less than his 2015 season by their measure.
This goes without mentioning that you'd be signing a player that can only play on one side of the field. Last season showcased a significant innings decrease in Encarnacion's time on the field as a first baseman, the only logical position you can hide someone of his fielding caliber. More than 200 innings were shaved off his time on the corner to allow his body to rest between at-bats and focus on hitting. Of course you could look at this as a positive change that allowed Encarnacion to maximize his offensive potential, focussing solely on smashing the ball out of the Rogers Centre confines, but that doesn't change the limits to his value.
Right now, Encarnacion isn't exactly in a leverage position when it comes to his contract negotiations. It's March 21 today and he has yet to take an at-bat during spring training action. Although Edwin says this has little to do with the current state of his contract negotiations you can't ignore the unnerving element of his health when negotiating a long-term deal. The Jays, more than likely, made up their minds long ago on Encarnacion despite claiming that they wanted to work out a deal.
So when the season ends, with happiness or despair, don't be surprised when the Jays elect to offer him a qualifying offer which he will no doubt reject, only to sign with the highest bidder who will ship the Jays a first-round draft pick. If Saturday taught us anything, we know Edwin won't be caught off guard.