Blue Jays rumours: Bautista open to 1B, in-season negotiating
Toronto Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista has opened the 2016 season by homering twice on Saturday against Boston and piling up nine walks in his first seven games
David Ortiz‘s recent comments that he would like Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion to take over for him with the Red Sox in 2017 have also looped in Jose Bautista, a free agent at year’s end himself.
Beyond the wasted worry on a hypothetical that rests seven months away, however, are some valuable takeaways regarding Bautista’s stance on negotiating in-season and his positional value.
Unlike Encarnacion, Bautista remains open the the potential of discussing a contract extension throughout the summer.
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“I’m not against anything,” Bautista told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “It’s not the right thing to do on my end to be concerned or worried about numbers and possibilities in my head. Injury risk is always there. I don’t want to start getting concerned about things that might take away from aggressiveness on the playing field.”
That risk of injury is a legitimate one facing any professional athlete, as the contract offer of today will not stay on the table tomorrow if a serious injury strikes. Bautista notes that he’s making an effort to “feel free without toning myself down consciously.”
He also is quick to point out that he has never demanded a renegotiation of his contract despite playing well over the value of his salary.
“Normally in all industries, if an employee, especially in sports, exceeds his contract and contributions, there’s normally a renegotiation. I’ve never demanded it. I’m still here. I’m still not bringing it up. You asked me the question and I’m giving you an honest response of what I think. Do I want to stay here? Yes. Do I wish it comes to free agency? Absolutely not. When you enjoy success and you enjoy the people, why would you want to leave?”
These comments remain in line with what Bautista has been saying since the original spring training drama calmed after week one. What stand out more prominently, however, are his comments regarding a positional switch as he enters his late-30s.
“I’ve played third base extensively in my career. I think first base is an option. I’m not as limited even at my age . I had versatility early in my career,” he said. His preference is obviously to remain a right-fielder, but any answer outside of a hard ‘no’ to a position change is interesting at this point. Then again, portraying himself as versatile ahead of free agency is a smart business move, so take it for what you will.
Related Story: Big Papi wants Encarnacion to follow him in Boston
For his career, Bautista has played over 6,500 innings in right field, over 3,000 at third base, but just 151 at first.
Allowing the process to drag into free agency carries risk for both sides.
For Bautista, he could be humbled by a market that doesn’t feature that one team ready to break the bank and meet the ceiling of his demands. For the Blue Jays, that possibility is exactly what would force them to enter 2017 without Bautista.
Just hopefully not with Boston.