Posted on January 9, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The deeper we get into the offseason and the closer we get to the starting of spring training, the more likely free agents are to settle for deals less than what they were hoping for when the offseason began. This is even true for the top free agents on the market, such as outfielder Jose Bautista.
For weeks it’s been speculated that Bautista may be willing to accept a one-year deal, a scenario that would undoubtedly lead him to re-sign with the Toronto Blue Jays. However, there is growing speculation a one-year deal may be his only option. But the silver lining to that is more than just the Blue Jays could be interested in him on a one-year deal.
In a lot of ways, Bautista taking a one-year deal would be a huge personal failure. Less than a year ago, it was reported that Bautista was asking for a five-year, $150 million extension, although Bautista later denied that he asked the Blue Jays for such a deal. Nevertheless, with his age, defense, and draft-pick compensation holding him back, Bautista’s market has disintegrated, making a five-year offer laughable. But even after declining a $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Blue Jays at the start of the offseason, Bautista could have never imagined having to settle for a one-year deal this winter.
At the same time, a one-year deal may not be the worst thing for Bautista, whether he’s back in Toronto or somewhere else. A year from now, he would be a year older, but he also wouldn’t have his value hindered by the loss of a draft pick that accompanies him this winter. Bautista also had multiple stints on the DL in 2016, and so his value next offseason would be increased if he can remain healthy in 2017. He could choose to bet on himself to have a strong season in 2017 and then enter a free agent market next winter that would perhaps be a little more friendly to power hitters than the market has been this year.
Of course, in order to bet on himself next winter, Bautista may have to settle for less money and a one-year contract this winter. Any team other than the Blue Jays that signs Bautista will have to surrender a draft pick, and so he would have to come relatively cheap for a team to give up a draft pick for just one season with him. However, if Bautista were to lower his asking price, and thus lower the risk of signing him, he would likely have multiple suitors other than the Blue Jays.
In fact, Bautista needs to find a way to make himself more appealing to teams besides the Blue Jays. Toronto appears willing to move on from Bautista and collect the draft pick, meaning Bautista will need to find a new home in 2017. For the right price, the Orioles, Athletics, Rangers, Rays, and Mariners could all have interest in the aging slugger.
According to reports coming out of Toronto, representatives from multiple teams have identified Bautista as a player who would be a great fit as a bargain signing, potentially making him a wanted man, even after a long and disappointing winter. But to make that happen, Bautista may have to settle for a one-year deal far below the price tag he has in mind, which would be a tough pill to swallow for one of the most impactful power hitters in the game.