With their roster for the 2016 campaign more or less in place, the new decision-makers in the Toronto Blue Jays' front office are now expected to direct their focus toward the future.
And determining whether or not that future will include Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion - the two longest-tenured position players on the club, with resumes among the finest in franchise history - remains priority number one.
On Sunday, general manager Ross Atkins provided some insight into the process, telling MLB Network Radio that the front office has discussed possible extensions for Bautista and Encarnacion, both of whom will become free agents next winter, but have yet to make formal offers to either player.
"We've talked to both of them at length about this, and spent time in person with Edwin, a lot of time on the phone with Jose - and plan to meet with him in person next week, actually - so it's the kind of thing where, you know, it's a huge decision either way, either angle," Atkins said.
"So it's going to take a lot of work on our end, and I think what we've been focused on to date is, 'How do we make this team better without sacrificing our future?' And we'll continue to do that as we factor in the decision to extend them or hopefully come to terms with something that makes them happy."
The window to negotiate an extension with Encarnacion, however, may only be open for a few more months. According to a December report from WEEI's Rob Bradford, the 33-year-old first baseman will head to free agency if an extension isn't worked out before the end of spring training. Bautista, a six-time All-Star who ranks fifth in Blue Jays history in WAR, doesn't appear to have set such a deadline.
"Would we like to have them here long term? Absolutely," added Atkins. "And, as you guys know, the challenge is, 'Can we see eye-to-eye on what that value's going to be?' That will be the challenging part."
Challenging, indeed. Though few players have enjoyed more success at the plate over the last half-decade, the Blue Jays may not be willing to make sizable financial commitments to such seasoned veterans, even ones teeming with sentimental value in Toronto, who have yet to show signs of physical decline.
|Name||WAR (MLB rank)||HR||wRC+||BB/K|
|Bautista||32.5 (6th)||227 (1st)||156 (4th)||1.00 (2nd)|
|Encarnacion||18.7 (41st)||189 (4th)||139 (15th)||0.80 (T-21st)|