On This Day: Blue Jays sign José Bautista to huge extension

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

To this day, has there ever been a more unlikely home run champ than José Bautista in 2011? Let me give you some of his backstory and then you can decide.

A corner infielder with pop in his bat but serious strikeout problems and low contact abilities, Bautista debuted in 2004 as a 24-year-old Rule 5 Draft pick on the Baltimore Orioles. He appeared in just 16 games for the club before being claimed off of waivers by the (then) Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

12 games later? He was a Kansas City Royal.

13 games later? He was a Pittsburgh Pirate.

For bits and pieces covering five years, Bautista remained on the Pirates. In exactly 400 games for the Buccos, he hit 43 home runs with a .241 average and 91 OPS+. Not terrible but not great.

Then August 21st, 2008 rolled around and Bautista once again found himself on the move. This time, going north of the border and joining the Toronto Blue Jays. 2008 and 2009 were "okay" seasons for the man who went on to become "Joey Bats" but 2010 is when things really began to turn around.

In 2010 at 29-years of age, Bautista played in 161 games for the Jays and boy did he show his club what happens when he's given a full season of at bats. 54 home runs, 124 RBI, 100 walks and a 164 OPS+ later and you have yourself a man in need of a raise.

Bautista set a deadline for extension talks between himself and the club heading into 2011, an ultimatum that ended up paying off for him in a big way, as the club re-signed him to a five-year, $65M extension that included a club option for a sixth season, pushing the overall value to six-years, $78M.

Five straight All-Star Game appearances and a whopping 195 home runs over the course of his extension tells all you need to know about whether the deal worked out or not. Bautista posted an incredible 148 OPS+ over what ended up being a six-year tenure with the Jays.

After declining a $17.2M qualifying offer at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign, Bautista spent around two months on the free agent market before ultimately returning to Toronto on a one-year, $18M cotract for one last run.

The 2017 season was a bit of an unceremonious end to the relationship between the Jays and Bautista. The former legend in the making managed to hit just 23 home runs with 65 RBI, seeing his batting average drop all the way down to .203 alongside an awful 79 OPS+. At the end of the season, the Jays non-tendered him and never looked back.

Bautista spent just one more year in the bigs, spending all sorts of time in the NL East in 2018, appearing in at least 12 contests for each of the Braves, Mets and Phillies.

Since then? Crickets. Unless, of course, you count Jeff Passan of ESPN's report in 2020 that Bautista was eyeing a return to the majors as a two-way player.

Let's rejoice over the fact that we never had to see Bautista try his hand at a pitcher. Instead, we are left with one of the most dominant runs of stardom the franchise has ever seen. While Joey Bats never took home an MVP trophy, he finished in the top-10 in AL MVP voting four times in six years and will forever remain one of the most fearsome hitters to ever wear a Jays uniform.

Next. Expectations for Gabriel Moreno in 2023. dark