VANCOUVER — Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says right now it’s all about getting to know Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Serious talk of new contracts for the two sluggers will come later.
"I love baseball players and I love seeing them getting paid," Atkins said Friday. "They earn their money, but it is a significant undertaking when you talk about extensions and it takes time. We don’t have relationships with these guys, so we’re focused on the relationship first."
Bautista and Encarnacion are both set to become free agents after the 2016 season, and should be in line for hefty pay raises. Bautista will earn US$14 million this year, while Encarnacion is set to make $10 million.
New team president Mark Shapiro and Atkins, who replaced Alex Anthopoulos after he declined to return as GM, met with Bautista recently at the outfielder’s Florida home for the first time.
"It just so happened that we were in the area for ownership meetings," said Atkins. "Him living nearby, we set up a meeting and had a great interaction with him. Neither one of us had a relationship with him prior."
Bautista smacked 40 home runs and added 114 RBIs last season to go along with Encarnacion’s 39 homers and 111 RBIs in the heart of Toronto’s potent lineup as the Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
The club lost out to Kansas City in the American League Championship Series and will have to decide if it makes sense to commit to Bautista, 35, and Encarnacion, 33, to lucrative long-term deals.
In Vancouver on Friday for a function put on by the single-A Canadians, Atkins said sitting down face to face with Bautista was another step in that process.
"It was great to spend time with him, great to get to know him," he said. "We spent about three hours really just learning more about him as a person and things that are important to him as a player."