Shapiro responds to Encarnacion's contract comments

Team president maintains positive outlook but prefers to keep conversations private

Shapiro responds to Encarnacion's contract comments

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Edwin Encarnacion doesn't seem overly optimistic about being able to work out a long-term contract with the Blue Jays, and while president Mark Shapiro might not characterize negotiations the same way, he also doesn't want to get into a public back-and-forth about the possibility of a deal.

Encarnacion made headlines on Saturday when he told the Toronto Sun that he felt the Blue Jays didn't have it "in their plans" to sign him to a new deal. The following day, Shapiro was asked to respond, and he said that he wanted the negotiations to remain private.

Toronto's veteran slugger previously announced a deadline of Opening Day to reach an agreement on a new contract. Time is quickly running out, and at least for now it appears as though the two sides have reached an impasse in the negotiations.

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"I think we just reinforce how much we appreciate him as a player, as a person, for what he has done here and what we hope he is going to do this year," Shapiro said when asked for his reaction to Encarnacion's comments. "We're going to maintain a positive position that we hope he's part of a long-term future as well. But [we like to] keep the nature of those conversations private."

Toronto has begun its defence of its 2015 AL East Division title, but -- at least off the field -- most of the talk has centered around Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Both have been an integral part of the franchise for the last seven years, but there are serious questions surrounding what the future has in store, as the pair is set to hit free agency at the end of the season.

Encarnacion benched by oblique

Shapiro hasn't talked specifics with Encarnacion since his comments went public, but he did say that even though the Blue Jays would prefer the talks to remain confidential, he respects any player's right to speak openly about the situation. The Blue Jays just don't intend to follow suit.

"No," Shapiro said when asked if he was bothered by Encarnacion's public stance. "Listen, they've earned that right, that's their prerogative. Every one of these guys, they're men, you know, and they're professionals. So they have the right to be able to handle things any way they want. I just have had enough experience to recognize that the back and forth in that forum doesn't accomplish anything."

A strained oblique muscle has prevented Encarnacion from appearing in a Spring Training game, but the club remains optimistic that he will be ready for Opening Day. He is expected to resume hitting at some point next week, and once cleared for full baseball activities, it shouldn't take long for him to get into an official game.

The 33-year-old has played through a wide variety of injuries over the years. He has dealt with back issues, a lingering finger problem and a torn quadriceps muscle. It's not clear how those injuries will impact Toronto's willingness to sign a long-term deal with one of its all-time great hitters.

"Every decision needs to be looked at with the collective landscape of the entire team," Shapiro said. "You look at those decisions, and you're not looking at one decision, you're looking at the rest of the team, that dynamic and that complexion as well. Players age, people age, as of yet we haven't been able to defy that, it's only a question of what level they're going to decline from and in this case, we're talking about players at the most elite levels of the game."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.