On the weekend, Jose Bautista talked about this past offseason, how he would handle things differently in hindsight, and his excitement regarding the season ahead.
It was an interesting offseason, both for the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista. When free agency opened, it was widely expected the Blue Jays would only be able to retain one of Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and there were many reports the Blue Jays were hard after the latter early on.
After several months of speculation and Encarnacion signed with the Cleveland Indians, the Blue Jays were able to retain Bautista on a 1 year, 18 million dollar contract, with options that could extend it up to a 3 year contract. Thankfully for Blue Jays fans (and likely the front office), the drama-filled offseason is over.
Over the weekend, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi penned an article with many interesting quotes from Bautista regarding free agency, and the upcoming season. In particular, Bautista was asked about how he felt things went for him during free agency, and how he feels about how they ultimately played out.
"I think in retrospect, I believe I can speak for myself and not for them, but I feel like I definitely could have handled things differently and maybe things would have played out different."
When pressed for more about what he meant, he added:
“Not necessarily changing the things I said, maybe voicing them in a different setting and in a different way that might not get misconstrued and misunderstood the way they did.”
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So what does that mean exactly?
In case you’ve forgotten, “Joey Bats” and his pending free agency were a big topic of discussion prior to the 2016 season. Having just finished another productive season and adding an iconic playoff moment to his resume, Bautista was looking to score big, with perhaps his final MLB contract. There were conflicting reports that claimed Bautista asked for upwards of 30 million annually on a 5-6 year contract. No terms were ever confirmed, but regardless, the ask was significant.
Unfortunately for Bautista, the season didn’t play out as he had hoped, and his value was greatly diminished by a season featuring two injuries, as well as slightly reduced production from the soon-to-be 36 year old. He still managed 22 home runs, 69 RBI and a .817 OPS, but also saddled with the Qualifying Offer, Bautista never even got in the ballpark of where he had hoped.
However, with the whole experience behind him, the 6 time All-Star seems very pleased to have returned to the Blue Jays, and excited about their potential in 2017.
His contract includes an 18 million dollar option for 2018, which would have to be exercised by both sides in order to stick. If the two sides agree to skip the whole free agency dance this offseason, the contract’s 3rd option year could kick in based on cumulative games played, for 20 million in 2019.
“What else can I say? It’s out of my control. I want to be here and by signing a creative 3 year deal, even though the last two years aren’t guaranteed, it shows I want to be here”.
According to the Dominican slugger he had a choice between 5 or 6 clubs, but ultimately chose to return to the Blue Jays. Citing a desire to contend, Bautista admitted that he wanted to return all along, and has always felt comfortable in Toronto.
Hopefully for everyone involved, the 2-time AL home run champ will be able to stay healthy and productive during the upcoming campaign. If he can do just that, it may save both parties a lot of time and energy in order to have him back in 2018, and hopefully to finish out his career North of the border.