Blue Jays ownership involved in bringing Bautista back

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2016, file photo, Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista smiles as he walks through the dugout during Game 1 of the team's American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. A person with knowledge of the negotiations tells The Associated Press that free agent outfielder Jose Bautista is staying with the Toronto Blue Jays after agreeing to an $18 million, one-year contract with mutual options for more years. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

TORONTO (AP) Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said ownership got involved in the re-signing of veteran Jose Bautista.

Atkins said Thursday the desire of Edward Rogers, the controlling shareholder of Rogers Communication, to help was ”abundantly clear.” He said thanks to Rogers, they don’t have to rebuild.

The free agent slugger looked like he might sign elsewhere but agreed to an $18.5 million, one-year contract this week that includes mutual options for more years.

A longtime fan favorite, Bautista hit 22 homers with 69 RBIs last year while batting .234 in an injury-slowed season.

The Blue Jays’ failure this offseason to re-sign fan favorite Edwin Encarnacion didn’t go over well in Toronto, which led the AL in attendance last year.

Atkins expects Bautista to perform more like the 2015 season than the 2016 season.� He hit 40 homers and had 114 RBI in 2015. He blamed injuries for Bautista’s subpar 2016. He said they’ve seen the 36-year-old work out this offseason and expect him to play right field for the bulk of the 2017 season.

”I would expect him to be a defender that we can rely on,” he said.

Bautista gets an $18 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $17 million mutual option for 2018 with a $500,000 buyout, payable if either side declines.

There is a $20 million option for 2019 that becomes guaranteed if Bautista has 300 games played during the next two seasons and doesn’t have a physical impairment that would prevent him from playing in 2019.

Bautista also could earn $1.5 million annually in bonuses based on home attendance: $150,000 each for 3.5 million and 3.6 million, $250,000 apiece for 3.7 million and 3.8 million, and $350,000 each for 3.9 million and 4 million. Toronto drew 3.39 million at home last season.