With just over a month left of the offseason and Jose Bautista is still unsigned. The question is, what is holding teams back from signing the talented outfielder?
After watching Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion and others sign through 2017, Jose Bautista is coming dangerously close to not being on a major league roster on opening day. Coming off of a quiet season only adds to his unsavory appeal.
After spending a majority of 2005 in the minor leagues, Bautista found his swing the following season. Consequently, he earned a full-time spot on the Pirates’ roster for the next three seasons. However, shortly after Pittsburgh knocked Bautista to the minors, they eventually traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.
From one slugger to another, the infamous Barry Bonds understands Bautista’s situation. Once the home run king hit free agency in 2007, he expected little to no trouble continuing his career. As it turned out, instead of receiving an influx of offers, Bonds ended his career unwanted and disgraced. While Bautista never faced serious steroid allegations like Bonds did, they both share a lack of personability that factors into their undesirability. From his tendency to linger at the plate after a home run or quick temper, Bautista is not exactly the friendliest ballplayer in the major leagues.
Never did this ring truer than last May during the Blue Jays’ road trip to Arlington, Texas. Due to his pompous bat flip during the 2015 ALDS, Bautista singlehandedly created tension between the Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. Clearly upset with how he acted the previous postseason, Rougned Odor unloaded a punch to Bautista’s jaw, clearing the benches.
Moreover, when asked about their interest in Bautista, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette left nothing to the imagination:
What makes matters worse for Bautista is the loss of a draft pick that comes with signing him. Every major league team, except the Blue Jays, would sacrifice at least a second round draft pick if they singed Bautista. According to Ken Rosenthal, this is exactly what scared Philadelphia Phillies away from making an offer. In the case that Bautista remains unsigned by opening day, his next best choice is to resurface after the draft when the loss of draft pick no longer applies to his deal.
Although he denied their $17.2 million qualifying offer, the Blue Jays stand out as the best fit for Bautista. Toronto lacks depth in the outfield and could use a power-hitter in the lineup, especially after losing out on Encarnacion. Furthermore, while he is a villain to nearly every other fan base, Toronto is one of the only places that truly appreciates his ferocity.
“I can’t necessarily say he’s a well-liked guy around the league,” John Gibbons said (per ESPN.com). “Now, when he’s a teammate, you feel totally different.”