BOSTON -- When the Blue Jays walked off the field following their final regular-season home game of the year, Edwin Encarnacion took an extra couple of minutes to soak it all in.
Toronto had just completed a disappointing 4-0 loss to the Orioles on Thursday night, and Encarnacion could not help but wonder if this was the final regular-season home game he would play for the Blue Jays.
The rest of his teammates quickly vacated the field and headed for the clubhouse, but Encarnacion lingered for a little while longer. He slowly collected his gear and sat on the dugout bench while staring out onto the field. Finally, he got up and did a little salute with his right hand before descending into the tunnel.
"It's tough because I have [eight] years here in the organization," Encarnacion said when asked about the salute. "Sometimes you get emotional. You don't know what's going to happen after this year and you start thinking about that. That's why I want to go back and play one more time."
Encarnacion still hopes to re-sign with Toronto this offseason, but he has no idea whether that will come to fruition. The Blue Jays and their star slugger have not talked about a new contract since Spring Training, and even then it was clear the two sides had very little common ground in the negotiations.
It was Encarnacion's choice not to negotiate during the season. He felt it might become a distraction and instead wanted to put all of his focus on the field. That part of the move has paid off with yet another impressive season, one of his best yet in a Blue Jays uniform, as evidenced by 42 home runs and 127 RBIs entering Friday.
There are stories every year about pending free agents who want to re-sign with their respective teams. They say they love the fans, the coaching staff, the city and the players. That's not always true, but in Encarnacion's case it feels genuine. He might not be back for myriad reasons, but he wants to be.
This was the organization with which Encarnacion became a star. He was once infamously designated for assignment by the club in 2010, but the Blue Jays gave him a second chance and Encarnacion never looked back. Since the start of 2012, Encarnacion has hit at least 34 home runs with 98 RBIs every single season. He's as consistent as they get.
"You feel sad because I want to be here, but it's not my decision," Encarnacion said when asked about his contract situation. "Now we have to wait and see what happens."
The lack of a contract beyond this year might be a disappointment for Encarnacion, but it's not going to take away from his focus on the field. It didn't have an impact during the Blue Jays' first 159 games of the season and it certainly won't impact him over the final three games in Boston, with the Blue Jays in a heated battle with Baltimore, Detroit and Seattle for one of the two American League Wild Card spots.
The only way to ensure that Encarnacion gets to play at Rogers Centre again is by coming away with home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game. Everything else can go on the back burner, at least for now.
"I was just thinking about wanting to bring the [team] back to the playoffs [at Rogers Centre], because that would be the best moment to be playing that game for this team," Encarnacion said. "I know I'm going to be a free agent after this year. ... I want to bring the playoffs back. That's what I was thinking about."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. 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.