I am not a sports journalist. I am not in the Jays’ clubhouse. I am not an insider.
What I am, is an analytical kind of guy and a fan of sports for over 30 years.
And in my opinion, the Toronto media and fans have blown this Edwin Encarnacion story WAY out of proportion, and have attached emotional drama that should never have existed to this story.
Everywhere you look, there are articles, blogs, tweets, posts and most claiming either the Jays messed up by acting too quickly in signing Kendrys Morales… or that Edwin’s agent screwed up by not analyzing the free agent market properly.
I believe there was an option C however.
Edwin was never planning on coming back.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
The Jays made their qualifying offer. 17.3 million for one year. No brainer. It had to be done to ensure they get their compensatory draft pick if Edwin signs elsewhere.
Then, early into free agency, the Jays make their offer. $80 million for 4 years – a pretty nice raise on $9 million per year. And well deserved for a man who has consistently produced for four years.
The word from the Encarnacion camp is that he’s seeking more like $125 million for 5 years.
But hey, word from the Encarnacion camp all along was that he wanted to remain a Blue Jay.
Thing is, public relations is a huge part of negotiation for free agents. A player has to seem like he’s happy going anywhere, staying anywhere – it’s easy to say things… but what was Encarnacion really thinking?
If I’m Edwin, this is where my head is at, and why I was never planning on coming back. Follow along if you will.
I’ve just had 4 great seasons. In the 3rd season, the Jays won the AL East with 93 victories and came within 2 games of making it to the world series.
In the 4th season, the Jays, thanks to a miracle in Boston the final weekend, squeak into the wildcard spot. In the play-in game against Baltimore, they win in extras (thanks to my huge walk-off home run). After a great series against a surprisingly weak Rangers team, we face off with Cleveland and lose. Big. It wasn’t even a series.
Now I look at my team, the Jays.
Best starting rotation in the game? Arguably, yes. Statistics were certainly there, but who were the big 4? JA Happ – 20 game winner who had never won even close to that many before. Aaron Sanchez, who led the AL in ERA, but lost some mojo after the inning cap controversy. Marco Estrada, whose back is a massive concern. And Marcus Stroman, the opening day pitcher who is still discovering his stuff.
In a best case scenario, all 4 return in the same form and repeat what they did in 2016. But what is the likelihood of this? That all 4 will provide the same dependability? That hitters won’t adjust and figure them out? Best case – they’re as good. More likely case, they’re probably not. Even a slight drop-off, and there’s a few less wins.
Clearly this off season, the Jays were going to lose some key pieces. Brett Cecil was gone for sure. My good buddy Jose Bautista – came out of Spring Training with his ultimatum controversy. He’s most likely not back. So with these missing pieces, who is still there?
The same lineup that showed a decline in 2016. The same team that didn’t hit as many home runs, score as many runs or win as many games. The same team that showed against Cleveland in the playoffs that they had a very one-dimensional offense. We either get the big hit, or we go down swinging. There’s no small ball. There’s no generation of runs out of nothing.
As far as Edwin could tell, and rest assured, Edwin is NOT a stupid man, the Jays were not trending in the right direction.
So Edwin’s agent played the game, and he played it well. He said the right things, he made the Jays look bad by saying they acted too quickly on Morales. He kept everyone guessing, saying Edwin still wanted to be a Jay.
But he didn’t.
It was always going to be Cleveland, Boston or Texas. And why?
Because a 34 year old heading into his final big contract wants to win a world series.
Edwin has never won a world series. No matter where he decided to go, he was going to get paid a significant amount of money. So it came down to who was going to give him his best shot at a world series.
The answer, was the team that knocked out his 2016 Jays.
A team that was missing 60% of its normal dominating starting rotation and still put together some phenomenal outings during the playoffs.
A team with arguably the best bullpen performer in baseball, Andrew Miller.
A team with a number of talented, explosive bats that generate runs in a multitude of ways, including Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and exciting rookie Tyler Naquin.
A team, who as free agency went on, (and the White Sox unloaded their ace and centre fielder, while the Tigers are shopping some of their better players around) has become a clear favorite to head for the playoffs by winning their division blindfolded with both arms tied behind their backs.
In the NBA, superstar free agent Kevin Durant went to the already-stacked Golden State Warriors because he wanted to win.
Edwin Encarnacion went to the Cleveland Indians.
Edwin was never planning on coming back. Why? Because he has decided he’d rather win, and Toronto isn’t the place he believes that will happen.
So let’s all drop the blame game, trying to point fingers at his agent Paul Kinzer, or at Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.
Unless of course you want to blame the Jays for not putting together a good enough team to compete beyond 2016. Then we can point to Shapiro and Atkins, but that is an entirely different article altogether.
Good luck Edwin. Hope the parrot doesn’t freeze at Progressive Field next November.
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