Jose Bautista is back with the Blue Jays

By: Emily (@JaysGirlEmily)

Blue Jays From Away

Since the end of the World Series, rumours have been floating about the return of Jose Bautista to Toronto.

First, he was given a $17.2 million qualifying offer, which he rejected. Then he was rumoured to be looking for a large multi-year contract which was out of Toronto’s price range. Bautista had a down year in 2016, interrupted by two freak-accident type injuries, but continued to demonstrate plate discipline and power (albeit in streaks).

When he didn’t sign by the Winter Meetings, and several teams implied or said outright that they weren’t interested in him, he reportedly became willing to accept a one-year deal. He was supposedly in close contact with several teams, including Toronto, Cleveland, and Tampa.

Late on Sunday, January 15, news broke that Bautista and the Blue Jays were nearing a deal, and Twitter was quickly sent into an excited frenzy.

Nothing wathat night, and the waiting game continued. Finally, this afternoon Baseball Prospectus Toronto announced that the two sides had come to an agreement, and the deal was quickly confirmed by others.

Hello, World

Pending a physical, one year for $18 million is official, and there are incentives and mutual options for what could be second and third year and up to $60 million total. Had Bautista signed elsewhere, the Blue Jays would have received a compensatory draft pick, but they get one already after Edwin Encarnacion signed with Cleveland.

The mutual options work in both parties’ favour – if he plays poorly, the team can release Bautista at the end of 2017; if he plays well, he can choose to become a free agent and look for more money; and if he performs somewhere in the middle they can both decide he stays. The team has yet to make an official announcement.

The offseason got off to a quick start, when the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales (formerly of the Royals) on November 18th, and Steve Pearce (formerly of the Orioles) on December 5th. But aside from a few minor league deals, very little happened after that. 2016 Blue Jays who were now free agents began signing elsewhere, starting with R.A. Dickey, then Brett Cecil and later Encarnacion.

Most recently, Michael Saunders signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. It had been reported that Saunders was talking to the Jays, but apparently Toronto’s nearing a deal with Bautista helped him decide to sign elsewhere.

Now that they’ve re-signed an outfielder and franchise icon, the main needs are relief pitchers (unless they want Aaron Loup as the only lefty in the bullpen) and backup catching. For now, fans can be thrilled that one of their team legends is sticking around a little while longer.

As it stands, Bautista is currently second place all-time for home runs as a Blue Jay. His total of 265 is 71 behind Carlos Delgado‘s 336. Another year (or two, or three) would give him a good chance to narrow that gap. He’s second in walks, again behind Delgado. Bautista is fifth in RBI in team history, just 35 behind number four Joe Carter, and is fifth-highest in runs, six back of Tony Fernandez. At age 36, he’s already destined for the Level of Excellence, and now has a chance to add to his legacy.

Welcome home, Jose.