Update: Wednesday, January 18th 2017 1:00 PM EST
Bautista:18M in '17. 17M mutual option in '18, 500K buyout. 20M vesting option in '19 w/300G in 17-18 and healthy
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 18, 2017
So much for the idea of the vesting option being easy to reach! The odds of Bautista playing 300 games across his age 36 and 37 seasons are pretty low. It’s certainly not impossible, as he played 311 games between 2014-2015, but durability decreases with age, and it would be a very tough gamble for Bautista to take.
This is going to be a one year deal.
Bautista also has attendance bonuses. 150K for 3.5M, 3.6M, 3.7M, 3.8M, 3.9M, 4M attendance. 900K per yer possible. #jays
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 18, 2017
This is also interesting. It mirrors the deal signed by Edwin Encarnacion in Cleveland by adding attendance figure bonuses. It will be tough for Bautista to reach any of these, as last year the Blue Jays led the American League in attendance and still drew only 3.39M fans. The Jays also sold out half of their home games last year, and it’s very tough to convince people to shell out for a Wednesday game against the Brewers in April. So while this is an interesting clause, it’s likely meaningless. And since it will more than pay for itself if the Jays are adding 100K extra fans per $150K dollars, it carries absolutely no risk for the Blue Jays.
Earlier Update: Wednesday, January 18th 2017 11:00 AM EST
The terms of the deal have been announced.
Bautista will make $18M in 2017, has a mutual option for $17M in 2018 with a $500K buyout either way, and a vesting option for $20M in 2019.
Many people will be confused by the mutual option, but it’s basically an accounting move. They are almost never picked up. The only real situation where there’s a good chance of a mutual option being picked up by both sides is when the team’s buyout is so large that they will overpay the player to save the buyout. For example, if Bautista’s buyout for the Jays was $5M, they’d happily pick up their end of the $17M option even if they only thought he’d return $14M in value. They’d be “saving” $2M. And if Bautista were only expected to get $14-15M on the market, he would also pick it up.
In this case, there is also a chance Bautista could still pick up his end if the vesting aspects of the 2019 option are easy to hit, as he would essentially be picking up a 2/$37M option instead of 1/$17M. If he thinks he’s topping out at 2/$30M in the offseason (which isn’t overly unrealistic given his age), he could prefer to gamble on his health (incentives can’t be tied to performance).
All that said, with the small buyout number this is still most likely just going to be a one year deal. That works out fine for Bautista because it gives him a chance to rebound and hit free agency off of a good year instead of a bad one. It also makes sense for the Blue Jays because of Jose’s age and down season. Given where things seems to stand at the start of the offseason, the Blue Jays getting Jose Bautista back for a one year commitment has to be seen as a major coup. The team gets another year for its farm system to develop and gets to return most of a lineup that was good enough to get to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016. With only a few more tweaks, this team could be looking at another postseason berth in 2017.
Earlier Update: Tuesday, January 17th 2017 2:15 PM EST
According to a team source, BP Toronto can report that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista have agreed to a deal pending a physical. The deal includes incentives, and can increase up to three years thanks to options. Further details about the deal are not yet known.
The deal allows both sides to spread the risk around, and gives Bautista the opportunity to further cement his legacy in Toronto, possibly even by retiring as a Blue Jay. For the team, it fills a hole in the outfield and the lineup, and allows the Front Office to focus on filling the rest of the team out, including bullpen help, a catcher, and possibly another outfielder.
Reports continue to filter in about the nature of the options, but as Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman are reporting, the first year salary is going to be $18M with potential for more based on buyouts of the mutual options. The incentives and options can take the deal up to $60M over three years.
It’s a very good deal for both the Blue Jays and Bautista. He makes slightly more than the qualifying offer, which helps him save face, and the Blue Jays get a star outfielder back on a very reasonable one year deal. There is potential for the deal to extend to up to three years, but if everything goes according to plan, Bautista will have a great year and hit the market again in the 2017-2018 offseason.
In recent weeks it has become clear that the Jays and Bautista reuniting made the most sense, and thankfully logical heads have prevailed.
Well, that took too long.
After months of both sides playing hard to get, it seems the face of the Toronto Blue Jays will be returning to the club in 2017 (and possibly beyond!) according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) January 16, 2017
Details about the potential deal are not yet known, but rest assured the contract will be for an amount significantly less than the five years and $150 million Bautista publicly requested at the beginning of Spring Training in 2016.
Bautista, 36, is coming off of his worst season since he transformed into one of the most feared sluggers of the 2010’s. Despite that, it was still a very good year. In limited action due to injuries to a toe and his left knee, Bautista hit 22 home runs and finished with a .270 TAv in 116 games played.
The return of Bautista would significantly lengthen the Blue Jays lineup. As currently constructed, the Blue Jays likely would go into the season with Justin Smoak batting in the sixth spot. Bringing back Bautista allows Troy Tulowitzki to move back down from the top of the order to middle of the lineup, creating a formidable one through six of Devon Travis – Josh Donaldson – Jose Bautista – Kendrys Morales – Troy Tulowitzki – Russell Martin. That may not be as scary as the lineups of 2015 and 2016, but if you’re an opposing pitcher, you’re still fearing facing this Blue Jays squad. That’s six guys who can hurt you with patience and power, and the importance of that cannot be understated.
That’s not to say there aren’t concerns. Bautista’s defense has been crippling for a few years now, and that would definitely have been a concern for the Blue Jays front office before they decided to commit to a multi-year contract for Bautista. Those concerns are amplified because Kendrys Morales is locked into the DH spot for the next three seasons, meaning an aging Bautista will not have the benefit of a half-day off too often.
Re-signing Bautista also means the club will lose out on the compensatory draft pick they would have collected had he signed elsewhere, but for a team that is in contention, that should not be of concern. The team will already have an extra pick in the first round thanks to Edwin Encarnacion leaving Toronto to join the Cleveland baseball team, and perhaps that is a reason why Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins felt comfortable bringing back Bautista at this point.
The club has about $131 million in commitments for the upcoming season, and with a rumoured budget of between $160 million to $165 million, and depending on the terms of the rumoured deal, that could leave Atkins with a decent sized amount of money to spend to fill the remaining holes on this team. In what has been a disappointing off-season so far, the club can still save grace by complimenting this Bautista move with a couple of relievers and a platoon option like Brandon Moss or Angel Pagan for Melvin Upton in left field.
Bautista is a franchise player, one that only comes around every so often. He is a six time all-star, has won the Hank Aaron Award twice, and finished in the Top-10 in MVP voting four times. Those are all reasons to jump for joy at this move, and we should also not forget that he flipped his bat on Sam Dyson. Bless his soul.
The King has returned to his true home.
Time for some baseball.
Lead Photo: © Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports