Atkins: Blue Jays want open dialogue with Bautista, Encarnacion

Ross Atkins joins Brady & Walker to discuss the future of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto, plus his confidence as the Jays GM.

With just ten months remaining before Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hit free agency, the Toronto Blue Jays are planning to have ‘open dialogue’ with the two sluggers.

“We want to win and Jose and Edwin want to win,” GM Ross Atkins told Brady & Walker on Sportsnet 590 The FAN Monday. “We’re going into the season with very similar goals.”

Encarnacion’s representatives informed the Blue Jays this winter that he doesn’t intend to discuss an extension once the season begins. In effect that means the Blue Jays have an opening day deadline if they want to keep the 33-year-old off of the open market.

Both Encarnacion and Bautista are on track to hit free agency following the 2016 season. Barring contract extensions they project to be among the top free agents available along with Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg.

Though Bautista turned 35 in October, he continues producing at an elite level. The right fielder hit 40 home runs with a .913 OPS and an American League-best 110 walks in 2015. Encarnacion was similarly productive with 39 home runs and a .929 OPS thanks to a strong finish that saw him post an OPS of 1.035 after June 1.

BULLPEN ROLES: The acquisition of Drew Storen has led some to speculate about the structure of Toronto’s bullpen, but Atkins says the Blue Jays aren’t locked in on any one configuration. Flexibility remains a priority.

“I don’t have that best-case scenario with names attached,” he said. “The most powerful thing about this (trade) is the flexibility and depth it created with pitching.”

The Blue Jays have yet to determine whether they’ll stretch out Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna or both. Atkins said both players will be consulted about their roles for 2016 and beyond. Plus, there’s a chance the Blue Jays will make more moves before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

“We may not be done,” Atkins said.