We’ve heard the numbers. Jose Bautista is allegedly asking for $150 million over five years. Non-negotiable. Now, we have no way of verifying if this rumour is true, but if it is, he’s pretty much guaranteed himself a way out of the Blue Jays. This is, of course, after swirling rumours that Edwin Encarnacion had put a Spring Training deadline on his contract talks. Meaning, he wasn’t going to talk contracts during the season. Most people took this as him walking away at the end of the season, but he’s come out with some more information that hopefully will put our collective minds at ease. He is quoted to have said “I don’t want any negotiations during the season. I want to concentrate on helping the team to win games and I don’t want to be talking about contracts.” Makes perfect sense for a guy who keeps his head down and in the game. As Buck Martinez would say, he’s a baseball player. But is he worth more to us than Jose Bautista? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Both Edwin and Jose are homerun machines. Collectively, they have hit 440 homeruns for Toronto and a startling 1700+ hits for our boys in blue. They’ve brought in over 1100 RBIs and over 1100 runs for just themselves! These guys are Dominican machines, but with both of them ready for Free Agency, we have to figure out who is best for us next year and the years to come. Bautista arguably has the offensive edge over Edwin. Last year he played more games, he had more runs, more RBIs (by 3) and more homeruns (by 1) and a higher OBP. Edwin, on the other hand, had 10 more hits, two more doubles, and a higher batting average 3 out of the past 4 years. When all is said and done, the numbers are very similar for these guys. Bautista has one of the best eyes in baseball, but that also makes him easily aggravated when a call doesn’t go his way (how many times have we seen him shoot daggers at an ump over a strike??). Edwin, however, keeps a low-profile and let’s his bat speak for him. The quiet powerhouse that comes out and does his thing. He doesn’t need a show, he just needs an at-bat.
I was fortunate enough to go to a few games last year after the trade deadline, and luckily got to witness part of Edwin’s crazy 26-game hit streak. In those 26 games, he hit 11 home runs, had 35 RBIs and helped the Blue Jays land at the top of the division for the first time in decades. All with a sprained finger and multiple long-term injuries and strains. Not saying anything against Bautista, because he’s obviously a powerhouse player, but not everyone gets a homerun hat-trick in a game. I mean, he was a 3-run homerun away from being the first major league player to bat the homerun cycle EVER (solo HR, double HR, triple HR & Grand Slam). Edwin was the man who made it even remotely close to a possibility.
But then you look at the play-offs. Jose Bautista was an ANIMAL. I’ve never seen anyone else come through with clutch-hits in elimination games. Even game 6 of the ALCS (when the Jays got eliminated), the only runs scored during that game were because of Jose Bautista. And the only reason we made it that far was because of Jose’s history-making 3-run homerun in the wackiest 7th inning ever. Period. I mean, that homerun was on-par with Touch ’em All Joe’s World Series winning walk-off homerun against the Braves in 1993. Jose Bautista made his mark on Blue Jay and Baseball history that day, and that is not to be discounted in this deliberation between Joey Bats and Edwin (even thought Eddie is the one who tied it up in the 6th). When it came down to it, Jose gave us exactly what we needed. Multiple times.
Then we get into fielding. It’s no lie that Bautista doesn’t have that much time left in right field. In fact, he’s starting to become a little bit of a liability. It wasn’t inherently obvious this past season, what with guys like Travis, Goins and Superman himself, Pillar, covering for him. We had rock-solid coverage all over right field…it just didn’t totally include Jose. When you look back over the highlights of the 2015 Jays, how many fielding highlights belong to Jose? Two that I can recall. And while Encarnacion was DH and therefore didn’t have many defensive stats to go off of, he’s also not asking for $30 million a year to be a less-than-stellar fielder who can hit a homerun once every four games.
Jose Bautista seems to think that he has given us a discount for his previous contract. Which, in retrospect, is probably true. However, just because he outplayed his $14 million/year contract doesn’t mean we have to ‘back-pay’ him this time. He had one good year. We signed him to, at the time, an enormous contract for what he had shown. How were we supposed to know he would outplay it to this level? People were calling for Anthopolous’s resignation after word got out they had signed Bautista to a contract like that. It was his contract. We didn’t force him to sign, just like we’re not being forced to sign a ludicrous $30 million/year contract for a glorified designated hitter.
At the end of the day, we have two very good, very strong players who have both admitted they would like to retire as a Blue Jay. However, one has placed himself out of reach. With all this contract talk, someone reached out to Encarnacion, and when asked if he had any numbers in mind, Edwin said “Yeah, I want to hit 40 homeruns [and] 100 RBIs.”
Who would you rather sign?