Posted on December 12, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The offseason has not gone as anticipated for outfielder Jose Bautista. The veteran was hoping to be one of the most sought after free agents on the market, and for a while it even seemed as though he would be one of the first free agents to come off the board. However, the Winter Meetings have passed, and Bautista looks no closer to signing with a team than he did when the offseason began. Interestingly enough, a recent report indicates that the Toronto Blue Jays remain in contact with the 36-year old Bautista, meaning a reunion between the two remains a possibility.
Ever since Bautista declined a $17.2 million qualifying offers from the Blue Jays, he looked destined to leave Toronto after spending the last nine seasons with the Blue Jays. The team looked far more interested in a reunion with Edwin Encarnacion, but when he declined a four-year offer from them, the Blue Jays moved quickly to sign DH Kendrys Morales. The Blue Jays have since signed Steve Pearce, all but closing the door on Encarnacion.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, do remain in the market for an outfield. The team is assessing its options after losing out on Dexter Fowler, who ended up signing with the Cardinals. It would make more sense for the Blue Jays to pursue a left-hand hitting outfielder like their own Michael Saunders or Brandon Moss, or perhaps pursue a trade for Jay Bruce, Melky Cabrera, or even Charlie Blackmon. But it’s still possible that the Blue Jays could circle back around to Bautista in the right kind of deal.
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With Morales signed, the downside to signing Bautista is that the 36-year old would have to be a full-time outfielder, which may be asking a lot at his age. However, the Blue Jays would have some versatility with their other two outfield spots with Melvin Upton Jr., Kevin Pillar, Ezekiel Carrera, and Pearce, as Carrera or Upton could easily replace Bautista for defense late in games. This may not be an ideal scenario for Toronto, but it does keep the door open for Bautista to return.
From Bautista’s perspective, his best bet may be accepting a short-term deal in familiar surroundings. There appeared to be mutual interest between Bautista and the Red Sox early in the offseason, but the Red Sox had other ideas, trading for Chris Sale and signing Mitch Moreland to play first base. The Red Sox have reportedly told Bautista’s representatives that they are done spending this winter and don’t have room for him, even if Bautista appears to covet a move to Boston.
Bautista’s biggest problem appears to be the draft pick compensation attached to him. Any team that signs him would lose its 1st round pick in next year’s draft, a fact that has tempered interest in him. Between that and several teams already signing the power hitter they coveted, Bautista is running out of options, which could steer him back towards the Blue Jays.
At this point, Bautista may be starting to regret declining the qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, as he may not have enough leverage to get the long-term deal he desired. He may also not be in position to receive the money he thought he would receive on the open market. There’s no indication that Bautista is close to signing with any team, but his representatives have remained in contact with the Blue Jays this winter, and the longer the offseason drags on, the more likely a reunion with Toronto becomes.