Joey Bats – The King of The Six – is coming back home.
It isn’t the most ceremonious homecoming for one of the most prolific hitters in Blue Jays franchise history, but it’s an amicable agreement. Maybe better described as a “settlement” between Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays.
As one of the most compelling and confusing story lines of the offseason, it’s a relief to see both parties come to terms on a deal that will see a franchise icon stick around for at least one more season in Toronto.
Both the Jays and Jose Bautista took many twists and turns to get here. Toronto may have been Jose Bautista’s first choice, but Bautista definitely wasn’t the Blue Jays’ top priority this offseason. After striking out on Edwin Encarnacion, falling short on Dexter Fowler and having some reported trade proposals fall through … here we are.
I spoke about this on the Blue Jay Hunter podcast yesterday, but I wonder if the entire Jose Bautista signing was precipitated by another deal falling through – potentially one with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Andrew McCutchen.
That’s the only logical explanation to me as to how the Blue Jays could’ve changed their tune so quickly on Bautista. Something must’ve changed last week; at some point, a switch flipped and the Jays shifted their focus towards bringing back Joey Bats.
This signing is a “happy accident” of sorts, more so for the Blue Jays because they’re only on the hook for a guaranteed $18 million. Even though this wasn’t the preferred arrangement from the outset, I think both Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays are happy to have each other.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Turning to Bautista may seem like a last resort, but he’s one heck of a last resort to have.” quote=”Turning to Jose Bautista may seem like a last resort, but he’s one heck of a last resort for the Blue Jays to plug back into their lineup.”]
In retrospect, Toronto was the ideal landing place for Jose Bautista all along. With the draft pick compensation looming over him like a black cloud, there were few teams willing to sacrifice a pick for Jose Bautista. It made the most sense for Bautista to go to the only team which wouldn’t have to surrender a pick: the Blue Jays.
Even though the Blue Jays won’t receive draft pick compensation in exchange for Jose Bautista, luckily the front office saw the value of improving the team now by signing Bautista – rather than banking a draft choice and sacrificing the opportunity to be competitive in the short term.
The way things ended in Toronto last year, Bautista has some unfinished business to take care of. Toronto is also the city where he established himself as a household name; a city (and country) where his brand has the most equity and the most opportunity to grow even further.
Any time you’re dealing with a franchise icon the magnitude of Jose Bautista, any breakup has the potential to get messy. Just look at what happened with Edwin Encarnacion; he didn’t land in his preferred destination and he left money on the table. At least Jose Bautista gets to come back to Toronto with the opportunity to make a lot of money.
At least Jose Bautista gets to come back to Toronto with the opportunity to make a lot of money; upwards of $60 million, but only $18 million guaranteed. The deal is beneficial for both sides; it doesn’t hand string the Blue Jays beyond 2017, and it allows Bautista to enter free agency and position himself much better next winter.
The reported mutual option for a second year is interesting to me; both the team and Bautista have something to gain by coming to this agreement. If things work out, Jose Bautista may be a Blue Jay until the end of the 2019 season. At the very least, 2017 will be his final swan song as Blue Jay.
It doesn’t matter how or why it came to this for Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays. Admittedly, this was probably the team’s Plan D in terms of filling an outfield spot. But Bautista was the best remaining option on the market.
Bautista makes this team better. Bringing him back is better than any other configuration of free agents the Blue Jays might’ve signed. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins explored other avenues to improve the team, but those attempts either came up short or didn’t pan out.
Turning to Jose Bautista may seem like a last resort, but he’s one heck of a last resort for the Blue Jays to plug back into their lineup.