TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays’ signing of Kendrys Morales doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Edwin Encarnacion’s time in Toronto, but it definitely lowers the odds of the popular free-agent slugger returning next year.
Hours after the team announced the addition of Morales, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said talks with Encarnacion "are ongoing, they’re still continuing."
"There are different opportunities, and different alternatives that present themselves when what happened with Kendrys Morales, we felt like we had a deal that we liked and a player that we wanted to acquire and it made our team better," Atkins said Friday on a conference call.
Morales signed a three-year deal worth $33 million. The 33-year-old is a 10-year MLB veteran who’s played for the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.
The big questions in the Jays off-season have been about the future of Jose Bautista and Encarnacion, who produced one of the most thrilling plays of the post-season with his 11th-inning walk-off homer win the wild-card game.
With regards to Bautista, also a free agent, Atkins said the addition of Morales doesn’t "impact us on Jose in any way" in terms of money available or interest.
"We still feel that both are realistic for us, but again, when you sign someone like Kendrys Morales, that decreases the likelihood of Edwin coming back to the Blue Jays, but by no means eliminates that possibility."
Morales batted .263 with 30 home runs and 93 RBIs for Kansas City in 2016, and has a .275 career batting average with 132 home runs.
He has made the post-season four times — including three straight years with the Angels from 2007-09 — and was a member of the Royals’ 2015 World Series winning team.
Atkins said the newest Blue Jay, who is "very well-respected," is a player they’ve long talked about as a good fit for Toronto.
"So the offensive consistency, the power, the fact that he’s been in big ball parks, and still been very productive, the ability to play first, he can also go to the outfield, and the impact he’s had on clubhouses and baseball environments is very well-regarded," Atkins said.
Morales arrives a week after the Jays signed Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the younger brother of Houston Astros infielder Yulieski Gurriel, to a seven-year deal worth $22 million.
Atkins said it was a "difficult and emotional separation" for his Cuban family, which is now living in the U.S.
"For Loudes, for Kendrys as well, for most Cuban players that I have interacted with in my professional life, it’s always emotional because of what it means for their family, for what it means leaving their country and the potential of not being together for some time," Atkins said. "That is always a very emotional departure, and whether or not it’s on a plane or on a boat, it varies for every individual."
Atkins said negotiations are ongoing with free-agent left-handed reliever Brett Cecil.
"We feel confident that he’s a great piece to this team and has been for awhile, so we’ll do what we can to ensure that he comes back," he said. "But again we have to focus on the best way to build the best possible team."
The Jays GM also noted Devon Travis has had surgery to have a flap of cartilage removed from his knee. The Jays second baseman injured his right knee during the ALCS opener in Cleveland, ending his season.
"He’s recovering well and feeling great," Atkins said. "We’re expecting him to have a full recovery."
Later Friday, Toronto claimed right-handed pitcher Leonel Campos from San Diego. The 29 year-old has 25 appearances over three seasons with the Padres, with a 5.70 ERA and 34 strikeouts over 30 innings. The Blue Jays also added left-handed pitcher Ryan Borucki, outfielder Anthony Alford and infielder Richard Urena to their 40-man roster, which is now at 39 players.