Jose Bautista is coming back home. The slugger has reportedly signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, his home since 2008, and the team he broke out with nearly seven years ago. The deal contains a mutual option, making it possible Bautista stays in Toronto past 2017.
According to Yahoo Sports’ own Jeff Passan, the deal isn’t 100 percent complete, but when it is, Bautista will have an $18 million base salary in 2017, plus a buyout for 2018 that could give him more guaranteed money.
That contract looks a little different than what Bautista originally wanted when he started considering the future just 11 months ago. And by a little, I actually mean a LOT. In February 2016, before he’d stepped onto the diamond for the 2016 season, Bautista wanted a five-year extension with the Jays worth more than $150 total. In fact, when the rumor about Bautista’s asking price came out, he denied it was true — because he was asking for more.
Bautista reported ask of $150M, 5 yrs is indeed not exactly accurate, as Joey Bats said. At least years and total $ r MORE.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 24, 2016
As to whether there was any wiggle room in years or dollar mount, Bautista himself said that his asking price was absolutely final.
Bautista: "There's no negotiation. I told them what I wanted. They either meet it or it is what it is." #BlueJays
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) February 22, 2016
That meant, of course, that there’d be no hometown discount for the Blue Jays, the team he’d played with since 2008. Here’s what he said to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm.
“That doesn’t exist, not in my world,” Bautista said. “In my eyes, I’ve given this organization a five-year hometown discount already.”
The discount Bautista is referring to is the five-year, $65 million contract he signed with the Jays before the 2011 season. That earned him $14 million a year over the life of the contract, and the team option for 2016 earned him $14 million as well.
So in February 2016, Bautista was seeking a five-year contract valued at more than $150 million total. How things can change in just a year. The 2016 season wasn’t kind to Joey Bats, who appeared in only 116 games thanks to two stints on the disabled list, and batted just .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs. It was his worst year since his injury-shortened 2012, and the first year he didn’t hit at least 27 home runs since 2009. Oh, and he also turned 36. Combine those things together and that asking price looked to be a little much. Or a lot much.
And the free-agent market proved that to be true. After he turned down the Jays’ $17.2 million qualifying offer, Bautista’s giant contract never materialized. Plenty of teams showed interest, but no one seemed willing to dole out the cash it would take to sign Bautista, or willing to give up the draft pick that would come with signing him.
In the end, it makes a lot of sense that the Jays would re-sign him, even for a short time. They’re the only team that wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick to sign him, and Bautista loves Toronto. A one-year deal with mutual options is a far cry from $150 million over five years, but Bautista couldn’t stick to his hard-line stance on no negotiation.
Well, he could have, but not if he wanted to actually play for a team in 2017.
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