Entering 2016, Jose Bautista had averaged 622 plate appearance over his previous three seasons. However, the two-time Hank Aaron Award-winner logged just 517 in last year's injury-plagued campaign that included two DL stints. The timing couldn't have been worse, as Bautista was in a contract year. When the three-time Silver Slugger did play, the results fell way short of what's become expected of him. Bautista posted his second-lowest batting average (.234) since his first full season in 2006 with Pittsburgh. His .818 OPS and 19.9 percent strikeout rate were his worst marks since 2009, his first year in Toronto. Throughout his career, Bautista's power numbers have been significantly better at home, in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, than on the road. That is an important note moving forward when considering the possibility that he'll be playing elsewhere in 2017. Where he lands will have a big impact on Bautista's 2017 fantasy outlook.
Bautista agreed to a one-year contract with the Blue Jays on Tuesday pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Blue Jays recently emerged as the frontrunner for the veteran slugger's services, and after initial expectations were of the contrary, Bautista will head back north of the border for another season. The agreement includes a mutual option that could keep him in Toronto through the 2019 season. In the short-term, however, it seems like Bautista will be an integral part in the Blue Jays batting order, especially now that Edwin Encarnacion is out of town.
Bautista is close to finalizing a two-year deal with the Blue Jays worth close to $40 million, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports. While it appeared quite unlikely earlier in the offseason that Bautista would be re-signed by the Jays, the 36-year-old perhaps found a cooler market than expected in free agency, and has warmed up to the idea of returning to Toronto. Bautista struggled to a .234/.366/.452 batting line during an injury-plagued 2016, but even at his advanced age, he still boasts the sort of plus-power and plate discipline that would make him a pillar in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup. After playing in the corner outfield through much of his career, however, Bautista could end up transitioning to a first base or designated hitter role, assuming the deal with the Blue Jays is eventually consummated.
Bautista's agent, Jay Alou, has remained in constant contact with the Jays since the winter meetings, where the two sides reopened negotiations to bring the slugger back to Toronto, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports. The market for Bautista, 36, has been slow to develop after he struggled through an injury-plagued 2016 season and finished with a .234/.366/.452 slash line. The 13-year veteran hit 22 homers and drove in 69 runs, but his batting average and OPS were his lowest in seven years. Bautista rejected a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer from Toronto after the season.
Blue Jays' general manager Ross Atkins denied on Friday that the signing of designated hitter Kendrys Morales spells the end of the club's interest in Bautista, the Toronto Star reports. The Morales signing -- three years, $33 million -- was officially announced Friday. Although previous reports said the team is uninterested in, and the Morales deal makes Bautista's return less likely, Atkins said he still feels like bringing the slugger back is a possibility. The 36-year-old is coming off an injury-plagued campaign in which he hit just 22 homers, Bautista's lowest total since joining Toronto in 2009. Despite battling Father Time, the 12-year veteran is demanding a big contract in free agency that only a handful of teams could afford.
Bautista declined the Blue Jays' one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer Monday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. As expected, the slugger will now enter the free agent market as one of the bigger bats available. That being said, the team that signs him will have to give up a draft pick, which could reduce his appeal on the market.