The Toronto Blue Jays missed their chance to extend Edwin Encarnacion's contract beyond the 2016 season. For now at least.
The self-imposed extension deadline passed with the opening of the season so that Encarnacion could 'focus on [his] game and focus on [his] team and focus on winning games.'
To his credit, Encarnacion added that he would 'love to stay [in Toronto]' but also that it isn't 'something [he] can control.'
It is believed that Blue Jays management and Encarnacion were never really close to an agreement. The team had reportedly offered a two-year deal, while the designated hitter was looking for four or possibly more years.
With the contract of Jose Bautista also expiring at the conclusion of this season, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins will have a tough decision to make about who to retain. While keeping both of them is still an option, it seems like the aging right-fielder may need to convert to DH at some point in the coming years which could preclude the team from keeping both players.
With Encarnacion just barely two years younger than Bautista, age might come into Atkins' decision. By wRC+, both players were essentially the same at the plate last year, though Encarnacion was given a slight edge with 42 fewer plate appearances. Bautista's defense took a significant hit last season by FanGraphs' measurements, however, he is known for his training regimens and preparation which some believe will help him age better.
It is worth mentioning that Encarnacion missed all of spring training -- in lieu of some minor league games instead -- with an oblique injury. He also battled some injuries in the postseason with a hurt finger and underwent sports hernia surgery over the offseason. Over the past four seasons, Encarnacion has had 2131 plate appearances while Bautista has managed 2266. All things considered, if keeping only one of Encarnacion or Bautista is in the Blue Jays' future, then it could be a very difficult decision.
By the end of 2016, Encarnacion's current contract will have paid him $37 million. When the deal was signed, it was actually a bit of a risk for the then-GM Alex Anthopoulos. However, over the past three seasons, Encarnacion has provided nearly $85 million by FanGraphs' estimations. That's $47 million worth of surplus value with still a season left to play.
On the open market, a full-time DH does have his value suppressed somewhat due to it only being a position in the American League. However, a hitter of Encarnacion's caliber would likely have little trouble finding a four-year commitment to take him through his age-37 season if that's truly what he's looking for. And it would likely have a higher average annual value than the $10 million he is getting paid this season, though a lot may ride on his 2016 production.