Atkins: Blue Jays ‘absolutely’ having dialogue with Encarnacion

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins believes John Gibbons is the right man to manage these stars, says "he's an extremely consistent human being, who has a lot of pedigree, and has earned his players' trust and respect.”

Edwin Encarnacion has remained quiet on the contract front, but his opening day deadline for an extension with the Toronto Blue Jays is quickly approaching.

In a guest appearance on The Jeff Blair Show Thursday, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins provided an update from the club’s standpoint.

“We have spent time talking to him about his interests,” Atkins said Thursday on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “We’ve talked to him about some of ours. We’re not going to get in the details of the negotiation but absolutely we are having discussions with him. And that deadline is his. And we absolutely respect that 100 percent.”

Encarnacion, 33, is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2016 season when he’s expected to command a significant raise from the $10 million he will earn in the final year of his contract.

His opening day deadline has been the subject of much discussion, but Atkins has no issue with it and acknowledged that the Blue Jays actually prefer not to let contract discussions with impeding free agents linger into the season.

"That is a huge distraction and I’m blown away by players' ability to handle it," he told co-hosts Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt. "You’re not talking about an amount of money that will impact you for one year. The numbers are so significant that it would be impossible for someone to table that on a daily basis. It’s my opinion, and I think Edwin’s too, that it needs to be tabled for a more significant period."

“We’ll let Edwin drive that. That would be our preference. It seems like it is his. To me and Mark, in any negotiation to have hardline black-and-whites is never a good thing. We never burn bridges or close doors and always respect parameters and boundaries.”

Encarnacion, who's currently nursing an oblique issue, is expected to open the season as the everyday designated hitter for the Blue Jays and slot fourth in the batting order.