What comes next for the Toronto MLB team?
BASEBALL -- The Toronto Blue Jays have ten free agents as they enter into their off-season.
Two of which are fan favourite sluggers first basemen Edwin Encarnacion, and iconic "bat-flipper" and right fielder Jose Bautista.
The Jays general manager Ross Atkins and team president Mark Shapiro have said that the budget for next season has not been decided but they have confirmed that qualifying offers will be made to both veterans.
"Those guys have had good careers, have always hit right-handed and left-handed pitchers, and have been a huge part of this organization's success, especially in the last couple of years," Atkins said and the decision to extend their qualifying offers is an easy one.
Encarnacion who is 33 had a solid season tying with David Ortiz for the AL lead with 127 RBI's. His batting average was .263 and he hit 43 home runs getting him recognized as an all-star this year for the third time.
By comparison 36-year-old Bautista, who had a slow start from an injury had a batting average of .263.
He hit 22 homeruns, had 69 RBI's and performed well in the AL playoffs homering twice.
As of Tuesday, major league teams have the exclusive right to negotiate for five days with their own free-agents, and once that window closes, consulting can begin with other teams.
Rumors have circulated that the Jays will make one-year qualifying offers each worth around 17 million to Encarnacion and Bautista.
Experts say they will more than likely reject their qualifying offers based on their contract demands and the fact that both players will be assigned as a designated hitter within the next two seasons.
If the veterans decide to sign with other teams, the Blue Jays will receive a compensatory draft pick.
With the possibility of a huge turnover of players, Atkins will have an opportunity to design the Blue Jays lineup in a way that was not available when he first joined the franchise.
"Any organization would be looking to create more balance, more platoon effect and potentially more speed," Atkins said. But he explained like anything in life it is easier said than done.
One aspect of the Blue Jays lineup that will most certainly be explored is the addition of more left-handed batters.
Currently the Blue Jays have Ezequel Carrera, Ryan Goins and switch-hitter Justin Smoak all of which are not consistent starting players.
Though the Jays sit in ninth for the most runs, they had the 23rd lowest batting average and ranked eighth in the highest strikeout rate this season.
Luckily, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano are returning next season. Making it safe to say that pitching is one aspect of the Jays game that does not need too much tweaking.
Experts agree that the franchise focus this off-season will likely point in the direction of gaining veteran expertise and rookie talent.
The future of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista on the Blue Jays roster is uncertain. But, the Jays are in good hands.
John Gibbons who managed the Jays into the ALCS the last two years will be returning next year and the franchise is looking to extend his contract.
Without a doubt, Atkins and Shapiro will be making decisions that will contribute to Jays attendance in the ALCS for a third time, with the ultimate goal of making it to the World Series.