Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins confirmed Monday at a press conference the team plans to extend qualifying offers to both impending free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.
Encarnacion and Bautista headline a rather weak free-agent class and would likely reject the qualifying offer – reportedly set to be valued at $17.2 million – in order to land a more lucrative multi-year deal. Should either reject the qualifying offer and sign elsewhere, it would net the Blue Jays a compensatory draft pick.
Both players have stated they would like to remain with the Blue Jays, though they’re coming off very team-friendly deals and could be seeking the last big contracts of their careers.
The Blue Jays have until five days after the World Series ends to use an exclusive negotiating window with all their impending free agents, and Atkins acknowledged the process of trying to re-sign both Encarnacion and Bautista has already begun.
A three-time All-Star, Encarnacion is coming off another season where he ranked among the majors’ top offensive players. In 160 games, he hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs, 34 doubles, and 127 RBIs. Over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 39 home runs and 100 RBIs.
Bautista, meanwhile, is coming off an injury-plagued year that limited him to 116 games. He hit .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs, 24 doubles, and 69 RBIs.
The 36-year-old has seen a decline in his defensive ability in right field, though Atkins said he doesn’t believe Bautista’s days in the outfield are numbered.
“He’s a good decision maker, has good instincts,” Atkins said. “There’s no reason to believe he couldn’t be an effective outfielder for the foreseeable future.”
Atkins also added the front office is unsure if they’ll make a qualifying offer to outfielder Michael Saunders. The 29-year-old hit .253/.338/.478 with a career-high 24 home runs and was an All-Star for the first time. After a strong first half, however, Saunders tailed off following the break, hitting .178/.282/.357 with eight home runs.