According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Blue Jays are expected to extend qualifying offers of $17.2 million to first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and right fielder Jose Bautista. Both players are pending free agency, and Heyman notes that while the Blue Jays will likely make a concentrated effort to retain Encarnacion, they appear more ambivalent about Bautista’s return to the club.
Encarnacion was unable to reach a happy medium with the Blue Jays prior to the beginning of the 2016 season, when both sides sat down to negotiate a contract extension. He worked through an oblique injury in spring training and returned for a monster season in Toronto, batting .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and a league-best 127 RBI. His walk-off home run in Game 162 carried the Blue Jays to the postseason, where he hit .286/.359/.571 in 39 PA through the ALCS.
Bautista is not expected to command as much in free agency as Encarnacion, partly due to his decline during the 2016 season. The 36-year-old hit .234/.366/.452 in 517 PA with the club, racking up 22 home runs and 69 RBI. He was charged with a one-game suspension after making an illegal slide against the Rangers’ Rougned Odor back in May, which led to a benches-clearing brawl and an eight-game suspension for Odor. In June, Bautista missed nearly six weeks with an injured toe and returned in the second half to bat .239/.372/.447 through his last 231 PA of the regular season. His bat went cold during the Blue Jays’ playoff run, however, generating a .182 average, two home runs, and 12 strikeouts in 39 PA.
Should Encarnacion and Bautista turn down their qualifying offers, as is expected, the Blue Jays will receive compensatory draft picks in the event that the players sign elsewhere. Per Heyman’s tweet, the Blue Jays are unlikely to tender a qualifying offer to fellow outfielder and pending free agent Michael Saunders.