The Blue Jays’ Dilemma with Bringing Back Jose Bautista
Depending on who you talk to, the Toronto Blue Jays are either very eager to bring back Jose Bautista (on their own terms, likely on a very short term deal), or the club has no interest whatsoever in re-signing Bautista and would gladly take the draft pick instead.
That’s a huge variance in opinion on one of the most prolific hitters in Toronto Blue Jays history and a franchise figurehead. How can the Blue Jays be so interested in reuniting with Jose Bautista and yet so seemingly ambivalent towards him?
Over the past few days, a pair of reports have surfaced in regards to Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays. The first being Jeff Passan’s report essentially paving the path for Bautista to suit up for the Blue Jays again.
He essentially says the two sides are made for each other and it’s beneficial for both parties to come to an agreement on a deal (a short term one, at least).
And on the other hand, you have Steve Phillips going on MLB Network and telling them that Jose Bautista “sucks the wind out of a clubhouse” and the “clubhouse walks around on eggshells because of Bautista’s anger” and that the Blue Jays “don’t really want Jose Bautista back”.
The funny thing is, Phillips comments aren’t all that different than what was being reported about Josh Donaldson in the Blue Jays clubhouse in September. Donaldson was rumoured to be cranky down the stretch, which caused some unrest.
In retrospect, I can’t really blame anybody for being cranky in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse late in the regular season because the team nearly threw away a shot at the postseason. At no point should anyone have been content or overtly joyous around the Blue Jays until the final game of the regular season.
The report about Jose Bautista may all be hearsay, but at the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Bautista does have a large chip on his shoulder, and he went from being the top dog on this team for many years, to becoming a supporting cast member.
But all of that gets swept under the rug, so long as the team is winning. Players can be the biggest divas and get away with the most ridiculous things because the club is playing well. And you probably saw (or didn’t see) a lot of that transpire over the past few seasons.
In no way do I believe this is inhibiting the Toronto Blue Jays from bringing back Jose Bautista, though. If you’re Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, I think it’s one of those things you’re willing to live with so long as the team as a whole is performing well.
Bautista would have to be the biggest malcontent for the Blue Jays not to bring him back for that sole reason alone.
Ultimately, I think it’s that draft pick compensation which is looming like a dark cloud above Jose Bautista. That’s the only reason why another team hasn’t swooped in and signed him already; they didn’t want to surrender the draft pick for a player coming off an injury-riddled season.
Not only that, but Jose Bautista is 36 years old, he really only plays to American League teams, and even then, many teams might’ve only scouted Bautista as a DH. That significantly whittles down Jose Bautista’s potential landing spots … which makes Toronto of all places the most attractive destination.
If a soon-to-be 34-year old Edwin Encarnacion — who’s coming off five consecutive seasons in which he’s averaged four wins per season – only managed to get three years and $60 million guaranteed, where does that leave a 36-year old Jose Bautista?
At this point, Bautista may be forced to settle for even less than the $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Blue Jays (which he declined).
If I’m Jose Bautista or his agent Jay Alou, I’m doing everything in my power to sell this to Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins; because Bautista needs the Blue Jays a lot more than the Blue Jays need him.
Right now, Jose Bautista merely needs a place to stay until he’s no longer tied to a draft pick. He also needs a place to play to build his value to potentially enter the free agent market one year older as a 37-year old outfielder/first baseman?/DH.
The draft pick compensation is such a huge sticking point, and aside from Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista is the only remaining free agent with that draft choice dangling around his neck … and it’s proving to be a huge deterrent for Bautista’s potential suitors.
Given the way the market’s played out, and how thin the remaining class of free agent outfielders is, if you’re the Blue Jays, you almost have to bring back Jose Bautista at this point; even if it isn’t with the intention of having him play the outfield.
Even as a 36-year old player coming off a season in which he had two stints on the DL, there’s a tremendous amount of upside for the Blue Jays if they bring back Jose Bautista on a one (or potentially even two-year) deal.
This isn’t exactly how anybody envisioned this playing out … but for the Toronto Blue Jays and Jose Bautista, it’s critical that they settle on each other for now. Because I don’t think there’s a better fit for either side.