The agent of Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista addressed his future recently, which is poised to be the off-field story of 2016
It’s already begun in a sense, but once the dust of the 2015-16 offseason settles, the contract situation of Jose Bautista will become the powder keg story in Toronto. Edwin Encarnacion is also on an expiring deal this season and worthy of his own lucrative extension, but Bautista’s come to represent something a little more to the organization. From his polarizing passion to the bat-flip heard ’round the world, Bautista is the face of the franchise. And has been through some darker seasons.
Bautista’s agent Jay Alou recently spoke to Danny Gallagher of the Canadian Baseball Network regarding his future in the city, rolling out the lines that you would expect given the situation.
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“If the Blue Jays want Jose back, he’d be very happy to end his career there but if they don’t want him, he will become a free agent,” Alou said, essentially explaining how a baseball negotiation works. “He’d be very happy to stay in Toronto. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see if Toronto wants to keep him. Jose is a hard worker. He works harder than anyone on the team.’’
I’m not in love with his last comment, but I’ll live. Regardless, many players would be “happy to” finish their careers in Siberia if that offered them the greatest earning potential, so how much does the Toronto connection mean to Bautista? Some have suggested over the past several months that the star would be inclined to stay due to his business interests in this market, but Bautista is an extremely intelligent individual. It’s just as possible that Bautista values similar opportunities in a larger market elsewhere. It’s something we do not, and can not know, but it’s set to be a variable throughout this process.
It will also say much more about the Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins regime than anything we’ll see over these next three months. The situations are obviously contrasting, but if the front office isn’t comfortable with David Price‘s annual salary, how will Bautista’s sit? Keep in mind that another strong season could earn him well above $20 million annually, perhaps even north of $25 million annually, all on a deal he’ll sign at age 36. On top of that, Shapiro and Atkins don’t appear to be emotionally-driven executives. At all.
Toronto has enjoyed the prime of Bautista’s career to this point at a fraction of what those years would cost on the open market. He’s due to earn just $14 million in 2016, just above the annual average salary of the mighty J.A. Happ. Like Edwin, and eventually like Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays will be forced to make a decision on him at his real value.
Alou’s comments don’t change much. In fact, they don’t say anything at all. But the presence of these comments alone is another signal of a heated year to come surrounding Blue Jays management.