After two months of waiting, Jose Bautista is getting closer to going back to the only place he wanted to be.
The 36-year-old slugger is deep into discussions to return to Toronto, where he resurrected his career and hopes to revitalize it after his toughest season since his 2010 breakout, sources familiar with the talks told Yahoo Sports. The sides are focusing on a two-year deal that would guarantee him close to $40 million, though multiple iterations of an agreement have been bandied about, including a one-year contract. MLB.com first reported the sides were working on a deal.
Bautista, hampered by nagging injuries, hit .234/.366/.452 in 2016, a far cry from the previous six seasons, when his 227 home runs led baseball by more than two dozen.
A six-time All-Star whose bat flip in the 2015 playoffs and jaw-jacking at the hands of Rougned Odor in 2016 provided two of the more iconic baseball moments in recent years, Bautista possesses skills that often translate to late-career success. Even as he struggled to hit fastballs last season, Bautista drew the third-highest walk rate in the major leagues last season, behind Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Since he broke out with 54 home runs in 2010, Bautista’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is nearly 1-to-1, too, the sort of contact rate that bodes well.
The Bautista-Blue Jays reunion seemed likelier in recent weeks, when Toronto didn’t fill either of its vacant corner-outfield spots and the one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer Bautista turned down from the Blue Jays in November hampered his market. If a deal is consummated, the Blue Jays would not receive the compensatory pick they would have had he gone elsewhere, but they would add a much-needed bat to their lineup, complementing the offseason signings of designated hitter Kendrys Morales and utilityman Steve Pearce.