Blue Jays reach out to Encarnacion; Bautista next

Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro joins Prime Time Sports in studio to discuss the desire to keep Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista long term.

The Toronto Blue Jays have opened dialogue with Edwin Encarnacion about a possible contract extension and plan to talk in person with Jose Bautista next week.

Team president and CEO Mark Shapiro told Prime Time Sports Wednesday that the Blue Jays met with Encarnacion over the winter break and plan to speak with Bautista next week in Tampa.

“I think the message is, let’s keep talking. Let’s figure out a way to keep these guys here,” Shapiro explained to Bob McCown and Arash Madani. “But our priority at this moment is this team, right now, and winning right now, and in order to keep those guys here we have to understand what it’s going to take on their part, we have to understand where the team is at the end of the year, and all the things that go along with that.

“But I can tell you, we’re going to continue to want that to happen, and we’re going to work to make that happen.”

Both Encarnacion and Bautista are on track to hit free agency following the 2016 season at which point they'd project among the top free agents available barring contract extensions.

There’s a timeline on extension talks, as Encarnacion’s representatives informed the Blue Jays 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 for keeping the 33-year-old off of the open market.

Bautista, who turned 35 in October, 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 in 2015. With numbers like that they’d be sought after on the open market.

"These would be unique guys in free agency, if you look at the circumstances around them for both performance levels and other things as well," Shapiro said at the 2015 Winter Meetings. "You never know what a free agent market is going to be until you’re in it, that’s where the risk comes in for the player. You just don’t know what that’s going to be."

In theory the Blue Jays could extend both players, but doing so would limit their ability to spend on other parts of the roster.