By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN, Fla. _ There is more than one bull elephant prowling the room known as the Blue Jays clubhouse.
In addition to Jose Bautista, slugger Edwin Encarnacion is also entering his free-agent year moving closer and closer to a deadline.
“How come you are only writing about Jose and his contract situation?” asked one Encarnacion loyalist of which there are many in the right field corner at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
“I heard they made him a one-year offer at the winter meetings and then a two-year offer. Two-years? The guy deserves more respect than that after what he has done the last four years here.”
Asked how much per year the response was “the Jays have not yet even made a dollar offer.”
Encarnacion will earn $10 million US this season, the final year of a three-year $29 million deal.
If you are looking for someone to knock in a run with two out and a man on second ... Encarnacion is your man.
Over the past four years Encarnacion is second in RBIs with 423 in 567 games. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers led all major leaguers with 461 in 587 games. Bautista is 16th with 423 in 518 games.
When it comes to home runs Encarnacion is second (151) behind Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis, while Bautista is sixth (130).
Cabrerra leads in slugging (.577) over the past four years, while Encarnacion is fifth (.549) and Bautista (.522) is 10th.
And Cabrerra is No. 1 in OPS with a .986 mark while Encarnacion (.919) sits eighth and Bautista (.899) 10th.
Bautista had a run-scoring single in a 6-6 tie against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday in Dunedin.
Encarnacion did not play and has not played in any of the 14 games this spring.
And manager John Gibbons said Monday he won’t until next week due to an oblique injury. Earlier he missed time after having a tooth pulled.
There have been all kinds of numbers circulating with dollar signs in front of them on Bautista -- six years at $30 million per, five years at $150 million and a three-year $75 million deal similar to Yeonis Cespedes. The Jays would take Bautista on a Cedpedes-like deal? We doubt Bautista would see Cespedes as a comparable.
Both sides have said that the accurate numbers have yet to emerge.
And Encarnacion? The only number to emerge came his first day in camp on Feb. 25 when he was asked about his contract demands.
Bautista gave the front office an amount to take to Rogers Communications. Might Edwin have a number in mind?
“My number?” he asked, rhetorically, with a smile on his face and the comedic pause fit for Saturday Night Live “forty homers, 100 RBIs.”
While Encarnacion turned 33 in January, Nelson Cruz was 34 when he signed a $57 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, while Victor Martinez was 36 when he re-signed with the Detroit Tigers for $68 million.
The biggest expenditure by the Jays new regime has been signing free-agent lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year $36 million deal. Ex-Jay Happ went 11-8 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 starts with the Seattle Mariners and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
There is going to come a point where the Jays are going to have to make a move on Encarnacion ... decide whether they want him walking his parrot at the Rogers Centre in 2017 or allowing him to take to another base path.
And the days are dwindling.
Encarnacion’s agent Paul Kinzler told us at the winter meeting in Nashville three months ago that if there was going to be a deal between the two sides, it would have to happen before opening day.
Or else Encarnacion would declare free agency at the end of the season.
It wasn’t a George Bell-style, play me in left-or-I’m-not-playing ultimatum. Kinzer pointed out how he and his client were going off past experience. The Jays started work on a contract extension before the 2012 all-star break coming to terms on July 12.
Encarnacion batted .227 with three homers, five RBIs and four strikeouts in his final four games before the break and the first three when play resumed.
It was another picture post card day.
The weather was lovely in delightfully different Dunedin: 81 degrees, partly cloudy.
Dalton Pompey homered to tie the score in the bottom of the ninth.
Neither team went home without a loss.
Yet, off in the distance tropical storm Edwin is gathering momentum (at a more advanced stage than tropical storm Jose) and could turn into Hurricane Edwin.
No one counts numbers down here.
Not wins or losses. Not strikeouts or errors.
There are however, 16 days until opening day ... deadline day for signing Encarnacion to an extenstion.
Or Encarnacion is elsewhere a year from today.