Boston Red Sox tell Jose Bautista they can’t afford him

The Boston Red Sox have reportedly told the representatives for free agent Jose Bautista that they have no room in the budget to sign their client.

Free agent star Jose Bautista wants the Boston Red Sox to sign him, but apparently the feeling isn’t mutual.

Not that they couldn’t use a six-time All-Star with prolific home run power to replace some of the production lost from the retirement of a certain legendary designated hitter. They simply can’t afford to meet his expected salary demands, which is astonishing for a team with deep pockets like the Red Sox. Yet that’s the world we live in now, where teams need to be more cautious of exceeding the luxury tax, which now comes with harsher penalties than ever before.

Peter Gammons tweeted on Thursday that the Red Sox informed Bautista’s agent that they don’t have room in the budget to sign his client, despite Boston being one of his preferred destinations.

Bautista is coming off of an injury plagued season in which he produced a .234 average that represents his lowest mark since he started receiving regular playing time with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005. Many players would be thrilled to smash 22 home runs to go along with an .817 OPS, but for Bautista it’s the lowest he has produced in each category since his first full season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009.

While this drop in production raises red flags that would make any team cautious, we’re still talking about a guy that finished in the top eight in MVP voting in four of the last seven years. Even at the age of 36 he should still have something left in the tank, especially if he spends significant time at DH to help preserve his body. If anything, his disappointing season presents a potential bargain opportunity. The Red Sox may have even been able to convince him to sign a 1-year deal to allow him to re-establish his value without clogging the team’s future payroll.

Except Boston apparently isn’t interested. They made that clear when they signed Mitch Moreland from the discount bin at a reasonable $5.5 million. Bautisita may end up being a bargain, but there’s no chance that he signs for that cheap.

Moreland doesn’t have Bautista’s bat, but he is a Gold Glove first baseman. He’ll see the majority of the time at the position, at least against right-handed pitching, allowing Hanley Ramirez to slide into the DH role. If manager John Farrell wants to bench Moreland against a tough lefty, no problem. Hanley can still play a little first base, while lefty-masher Chris Young takes over at DH. They could also use the DH spot as an opportunity to get Blake Swihart some at-bats. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a need for Bautista.

Bautista could have been a good fit in Boston on a short-term deal, but the wrath of the new luxury tax penalties forced them into a cheaper alternative. The Red Sox aren’t the only team dealing with these concerns, which had an affect on the market for over-30 sluggers. Carlos Beltran only got a 1-year deal despite showing he can still hit at his age. Matt Holliday, who like Bautista is coming off of a down season, had to settle for one year.

It looks like Bautista may be in the same boat, but the list of potential destinations is growing thin if the Red Sox can’t find room for him. A return to Toronto remains a possibility, but the Blue Jays are focused more on retaining Edwin Encarnacion and have already made a series of other moves that seem to indicate they don’t expect to bring Bautista back. The Baltimore Orioles won’t take him because apparently their fans don’t like him. The Texas Rangers could be in the mix, but if they weren’t willing to keep Beltran around then you wonder why they’d hand a similar offer to Bautista. The Cleveland Indians could be a fit if Mike Napoli signs elsewhere, but you would assume Nap would be their preference after he quickly established himself as a fan favorite.

Bautista will find a home somewhere eventually, but barring an unexpected change of heart, it wont’ be in Boston.

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