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Inbox: Is there a chance Encarnacion returns?

Blue Jays beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
November 23, 2016

Why would Toronto sign Kendrys Morales so early and reduce chances of signing Edwin Encarnacion? EE clearly has wanted to come back ... why would they not work towards EE and then go after someone like Morales later? -- Matthew P., Kitchener, OntarioI asked myself a similar question after news

Why would Toronto sign Kendrys Morales so early and reduce chances of signing Edwin Encarnacion? EE clearly has wanted to come back ... why would they not work towards EE and then go after someone like Morales later?
-- Matthew P., Kitchener, Ontario

I asked myself a similar question after news first broke of Morales' three-year deal, but it's clear Toronto believed it was necessary to strike early. The goal was to re-sign Encarnacion, and according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, Toronto offered four years and $80 million. When that was turned down, and with no guarantee that a deal could be reached, the Blue Jays moved quickly.
The biggest factor is that Toronto had nine free agents and holes to fill at the corner outfield spots, DH, in the bullpen and potentially at first base. General manager Ross Atkins was comfortable with $33 million over three years, and the fear was that the asking price would either go up over time or Morales would go elsewhere and leave the Blue Jays out in the cold if they missed out on Encarnacion.
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What role do you think we'll see Morales playing if the Blue Jays re-sign Encarnacion? Conversely, where can we expect Morales in the batting order if neither Encarnacion nor José Bautista return?
-- Carter, Salt Lake City

In theory, having Encarnacion and Morales on the same team is doable, but to keep them together for three years sounds like a risky proposition. Atkins recently mentioned possibly using Morales at first base and in the outfield, but he's played there sparingly and a lack of speed is going to cause some major issues with his range. Morales in the field can be a short-term solution to give Encarnacion an occasional start at DH, but he'll likely need more than that.
The batting order is impossible to predict at this point because there are too many moving parts. I'd expect to see Morales hitting either fourth or fifth in the long term, but if the season started today, I think it would look something like this: Devon Travis, Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Morales, Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Melvin Upton Jr., Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera. But it won't stay that way, because this is not a finished product.

Now that Josh Reddick has signed with the Astros, could the Blue Jays pursue Carlos Beltrán?
-- Christopher M., Richmond Hill, Ontario

The Beltran-to-Toronto rumors won't seem to go away, but to me this doesn't make a lot of sense. Don't get me wrong, I thought it would be a great idea for the Blue Jays to pair Encarnacion with someone like Beltran, but now that Morales is in the fold, there just doesn't appear to be enough room on the roster.
Sure, Beltran could play some right field, but he can't be out there every day. The same could be said about Morales, so this would leave the club with two players who should be full-time DHs. It would be hard enough to make Encarnacion/Morales work as a duo, and it would be almost impossible to use both Beltran and Morales on a regular basis.
Why wasn't Joe Biagini considered for the American League Rookie of the Year Award?
-- Marcel P., Cornwall, Ontario

For the sake of full disclosure, I had a vote for this year's AL Rookie of the Year Award. Tigers starter Michael Fulmer got my first-place ballot, Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez was second and Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin was third. I wouldn't say that Biagini was ignored, but in my opinion, the three players listed above had better years.
Normally I'd give an edge to position players, but in my eyes, Fulmer was the obvious choice. His 3.06 ERA would have ranked third in the AL, but his 159 innings fell just shy of qualifying and he nearly helped Detroit get into the postseason. Sanchez appeared in just 53 games, so I couldn't justify taking him over a deserving candidate such as Fulmer, but with 20 homers, 40 RBIs and a 1.032 OPS over that span, it was enough for second. Biagini deserves praise for a 3.06 ERA over 67 2/3 innings, but he wasn't quite deserving of a Top 3 spot.

Why hasn't Chris Colabello been designated for assignment yet? Do they think he still has a spot in the organization, or are they just waiting until they absolutely need a roster spot?
-- Jamie, Simcoe, Ontario

There's no rush in making a decision. Morales can't be expected to play much first base, so Colabello is currently second on the club's depth chart behind Smoak. There's a good chance that will change in the coming weeks, but until it does, there's no reason to make a move. At the very least, Colabello serves as an insurance policy.
Colabello also isn't going to cost very much. He's not eligible for salary arbitration until after next year and given the off chance he can regain some of his previous form, he'd be a bargain at around the league minimum. There's still a good chance Colabello gets DFA'd at some point, but until Toronto needs the roster spot, it doesn't need to happen.
At what price do you think the team would push to take back Bautista? I've been seeing projections at three years, $50 million, which seems pretty reasonable. Do you think the Blue Jays would be willing to pay this much, or have they mentally moved on?
-- Brian D., Toronto

Toronto hasn't completely moved on and there will be continued dialogue between these two sides, but it does appear as though both are waiting to see where the market will go. Unlike with Encarnacion, the Blue Jays did not come out with an aggressive move and instead were content to wait and see whether Bautista would accept a qualifying offer.
As expected, Bautista declined, and he is now in the process of speaking to other teams. This is one signing that could drag deep into the offseason, because he might be required to wait for some of the bigger bats to come off the board before his market becomes clear. The range you mentioned seems like a worthwhile gamble, but Bautista is as much a businessman as he is a ballplayer. Expect him to take the top dollar, and odds are still that won't be in Toronto, but it can't be entirely ruled out.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.