MLB

John Gibbons to return as Blue Jays manager in 2017: report

John Gibbons will return in 2017 to manage the Toronto Blue Jays, according to multiple reports. President Mark Shapiro confirmed that Gibbons will be back in the final year of his contract, citing his familiarity with the team and his "unflappable" consistency.

Big question is what to do with pending free agents Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion

John Gibbons will be back to manage the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017, president Mark Shapiro confirmed. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

John Gibbons will return in 2017 to manage the Toronto Blue Jays, according to multiple reports. 

Jays president Mark Shapiro confirmed that Gibbons will be back in the final year of his contract, citing his familiarity with the team and his "unflappable" consistency. 

"The one that is certain is our desire for him to continue to lead this organization on the field, and his desire is the same," general manager Ross Atkins told the National Post. 

Gibbons just finished his fourth season in his second stint as Jays manager. He originally managed the team from 2004-08, and was rehired before the 2013 season. 

"There's no panic. He believes in the talent, he believes in his players, he believes in the process and he believes in all the work that's been done to date," Shapiro told Sportsnet in an interview. "That gives us confidence, that gives the players confidence and the belief to hold true to the bigger picture. That's a separator."

Gibbons' status is one answer to an off-season full of questions surrounding the Blue Jays, including what happens to Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, whose contracts are both set to expire.  

The veteran sluggers have been mainstays in the heart of the Blue Jays' lineup for years. Neither Bautista nor Encarnacion wanted to address their future plans after the game.

"I don't want to make this about myself," Bautista said. "I don't really feel that I'm in the proper state of mind to be talking about that. Obviously I know it's a possibility but we'll see what happens."

Encarnacion, 33, is coming off another big season with 42 homers, 127 RBIs and a .263 batting average. Bautista, 36, battled some injuries this year and finished with 22 homers, 69 RBIs and a .234 average.

Bautista doubled in the ninth inning of Toronto's 3-0 loss to the Indians on Wednesday while Encarnacion struck out later in the frame. Fans were on their feet chanting their names during the at-bats.

Both players were big parts of the franchise's return to prominence last year.

"I think they really helped put this team back on the map again, what they've accomplished," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "And really both of them made their name here in Toronto. But baseball is still a business.

"It's a game we play, but it's still a big business and guys earn the right to try free agency, what have you. They both love it here, but it's still a business."

The upcoming free-agent crop is considered weaker than normal so chances are good that both players will receive lucrative multi-year deals.

Whether Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins are interested in bringing them back at the price they will command is unclear.

"If I'm not around them again, I have great memories, regardless of what they did on the field — two good guys," Gibbons said. "And we spent a lot of time together, me and of course the coaching staff and everybody else.

"I'm proud of those guys and you hope they're back."

Bautista signed a US$65-million, five-year deal in 2011 and the team picked up a $14-million option for this season. Encarnacion, who signed a three-year extension in 2012 worth $29 million, is coming off a team option at $10 million.

Encarnacion, in particular, will be in line for a big raise.

"To be honest, I'm really sad because I don't know what's going to happen next," Encarnacion said through a translator. "But overall I feel really proud for what the fans and what this organization have done for me."

Saunders, Dickey, Cecil also free agents

Other notable Blue Jays set to enter free agency include Canadian Michael Saunders, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and southpaw reliever Brett Cecil.

Bautista entered the major leagues in 2004 with Baltimore. He joined the Blue Jays in 2008 and broke out in the 2010 season, hitting 54 homers and driving in 124 runs.

He has been one of the sport's top sluggers ever since.

"This is a great team with a great core," Bautista said. "A lot of potential and I think a great future."

Encarnacion, meanwhile, made his big-league debut in 2005 with the Cincinnati Reds and joined the Blue Jays in 2009. He has at least 30 homers in each of the last five seasons.

"We would love to have everybody back," said Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson. "We would love to have Bats back. We would love to have Eddie back.

"These guys have been the faces of this franchise for many years now."

with files from Canadian Press

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