Recent report has Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays engaging in talks for a reunion after much drama
Since his demands for a five-year, $150-MM contract back in Spring Training of 2016, the future of Jose Bautista: Toronto Blue Jays has been up in the air ever since. The new front office balked at the number (let alone the term), and the two sides refrained from negotiating in season, rendering him a free agent and after the 2016 World Series. Despite a few big home runs at the end of the season and especially the AL Wild Card game, Bautista stumbled through an injury-plagued season, his worst since 2009, effectively crushing his demands for that $150M contract.
This all seemed to fall into favor for the Blue Jays, who would have openings at LF, RF and DH in 2017, but the market for sluggers this offseason was slow to develop and overall incredibly bizarre. The Jays quickly signed Lourdes Gurriel and Kendrys Morales, but these moves filled only the current DH role and maybe a corner OF slot in 2018.
The collective hearts of Blue Jays Nation sank on December 5th, when the Blue Jays announced corner IF/corner OF utility man Steve Pearce to a two-year, $12.5MM contract. At this point it seemed the fates of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista were sealed: they would no longer be Toronto Blue Jays. Edwin was the first to go, signing with the Cleveland Indians for $60MM over three seasons. Jose seemed like the next one to go, but as of the Christmas holiday, he had not been linked to any other teams, and Fanrag’s Jon Heyman even expressed a lack of confidence in the Jays returning their storied slugger.
That was until late Thursday afternoon, where permanent Blue Jays twitter presence JP Morosi dropped this nugget:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 29, 2016
Almost immediately, the bubbles began churning in the Blue Jays twitter shark tank, as a frenzy of “SIGN HIM” and “Please” tweets flowed as #19 Blue Jays shirseys were pulled out of storage and over the heads of hungry fans. The sides of the hole dug from Encarnacion’s departure caved in a bit, allowing fans a chance to crawl out and feel optimism for the first time in weeks.
Despite is rough 2016, which saw declines in, well, almost everything, Bautista still has some value. He did manage 22 HR in 2016 while missing over 40 games, and the Fangraphs Steamer projections see a significant rebound in 2017 to the tune of 28 HR, 82 RBI and a slash line in the vicinity of 250/371/475 – in front of what the projections prophesize as a defensive contribution favoring his opponents. It’s not Edwin Encarnacion-type production, but in a lineup with Devon Travis, Josh Donaldson, Kendrys Morales, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin to support the heartbeat of the Blue Jays for the past decade, it’s certainly something.
Hope has been restored, albeit briefly, that a reunion is in the work for the two. If Jose Bautista does return, it’s likely on a one-year deal and it’ll probably be on or around the value of the qualifying offer that Bautista rejected in November. With Kendrys Morales locked in at DH (for at least three more seasons) and Justin Smoak-Steve Pearce splitting time at first base, it looks as though Bautista’s only role will be as the team’s every day RF. While this likely sends shivers down the spines of analytically-inclined fans, most are just grateful to be cheering for the Greatest Blue Jay of all-time for another season.
* Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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