Perhaps Jose Bautista sounded the alarm in spring training when, not shockingly, he told reporters he would not offer the Toronto Blue Jays a hometown discount.

Toronto is not Bautista’s hometown. For the record, that’s Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Nor has anyone purported him to be such a lover of Canadian bacon that he would take less money to remain a Blue Jay.

Nonetheless, Bautista offered coupon-clippers this: “Doesn’t exist, not in my world.”

Baustista was a big part, but not nearly the sum, of the Blue Jays offense in 2015, MLB’s best. But for a Toronto fanbase jonesing for a perennial contender since the organization won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, Bautista underscored an ugly reality.

This is a do-or-die year for this offensive juggernaut.

Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson combined to form one of the greatest power-hitting trios in baseball history last season. Yet by the end of this season, they could go the way of the Beatles—breaking up for the sake of financial gain.

Donaldson won’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season, but Encarnacion will join Bautista in free agency this winter. Like his teammate, he will assuredly seek a big payday after finishing a team-friendly deal.

The Blue Jays likely won’t be able to sign all three to long-term contracts. If one of the three departs, their offense won’t be nearly as potent.

Last season, they were only the fourth trio in MLB history to each hit at least 39 home runs in a season. Donaldson hit 41, Bautista 40 and Encarnacion 39.

The Blue Jays were the second team in history to have three players each hit at least 20 homers after the All-Star break, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, courtesy of the aforementioned trio. Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Moises Alou did the same for the 2004 Chicago Cubs.

Of Toronto’s MLB-best 891 runs in 2015, Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion drove in 348, accounting for 39.1 percent of the Blue Jays’ run production. They hit a combined 120 of the team’s MLB-best 232 home runs.

This scenario is kind of like the hit 1990s drama Beverly Hills, 90210.

The show revolved around the home of the Walsh family. When the producers knew they had to write the last of the Walshes, Brandon (played by Jason Priestley, who elected to leave), off the show, the producers had to know the decade-long hit wouldn’t survive. It remained on the air for another season and a half, with the Walsh house a central location. But it seemed disingenuous without a Walsh actually living in it. The show took a strange arc and awkwardly ended.

This is all to say Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins should be able to relate to Beverly Hills, 90210 creator Aaron Spelling. Atkins’ Walshes are Bautista, Encarnacion and Donaldson.

Toronto is a hit now, but it may not be by this time next season.

The Rogers Centre may look the same aesthetically if any of the three leave. But the otherworldly power numbers are what has been buzzworthy about watching a game there.

Given the rare history of the trio’s 2015 performance, recreating that kind of power is nearly impossible.

“I’m happy where I’m at today and try not to put too much stock into a lot of stuff,” Donaldson told’s Richard Justice during spring training. “I’ve got an opportunity to play the game I love and cherish. So I’m never going to take that for granted. There’s still a lot of unfinished business to do. But at the same time, with what we did last season, it makes everybody else’s goals in here a lot more believable.”

Bautista, Donaldson and Encarnacion each play to a level that commands at least $20 million annually. In 2016, however, they are making $14 million, $11.65 million and $10 million, respectively, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

It makes sense for the Blue Jays to try to re-sign Bautista and Encarnacion this winter. But if they had unlimited funds, there would be no fear of either player leaving Toronto for a bigger contract. That’s not the case.

The Blue Jays do have Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki signed to long-term deals. Both are solid hitters and get on base. Each has had a season in which his on-base percentage broke .400. But neither has elite power.

With either player hitting in the power spots in the lineup, the way in which Toronto scores runs would drastically change. That is if the team didn’t altogether see a drop in its scoring.

Some organizations, given the Blue Jays’ circumstances, might look to their minor league system for replacements. But Toronto’s farm system is drier than a seminar on crude oil prices.

In Baseball America’s latest ranking of minor league systems, Toronto sits 24th. But even in examining the Blue Jays system as its own entity, there isn’t much offensive help on the brink of major league stardom.

Only two of Toronto’s top five prospects are position players, according to’s rankings. Outfielder Anthony Alford is due to be promoted to the majors next season. But the organization’s next-best position player prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., isn’t expected to make his major league debut until 2020.

Toronto’s situation is similar to what other great teams around the league undergo. Stars eventually leave, either via retirement or free agency, and teams must retool their rosters.

With that scenario nearing for a Blue Jays team that has World Series aspirations, the future is now.

This roster is down to its final out.


Seth Gruen is a national baseball columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @SethGruen.

Read more MLB news on