It appeared to be a matter of time before the Toronto Blue Jays and Jose Bautista agreed to a new contract. That came today, as Bautista will be returning to Toronto on a one year deal with two mutual options.
It was expected that Jose Bautista would cash in during free agency. As one of the top power hitters available, and his track record of success, Bautista seemed destined to land an impressive contract. Indeed, that was what he and his representatives must have thought when he turned down the qualifying offer from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Instead, as the weeks dragged on, Bautista was barely able to get a look in free agency. Teams like the Red Sox told him that they did not have the budget to add his contract. The Orioles were far more blunt, telling Bautista outright that the fanbase hated him, and he would not be a part of the team. With each passing day, it appeared as though his only option would be to return to Toronto.
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That expectation became reality today, as the Blue Jays and Bautista agreed to a one year contract. There are also two mutual option years and incentives that could turn this deal into a three year, $60 Million pact. It is still a solid haul, but likely less than what Bautista envisioned when he became a free agent.
Although the Rays and Indians were reportedly interested in his services, Toronto was really his best fit. The Blue Jays have openings in the corner outfield, seemingly leaving a roster spot open for Bautista to return to the fold.
For Bautista, this homecoming made perfect sense, even if it did not happen the way he imagined. He became a star with the Blue Jays, and if any team was going to actively pursue him, it was Toronto. His numbers suffered last year, as he posted a mere .234/.366/.452 batting line with 22 home runs. Those marks were his worst 2009, before he adjusted his swing to become the power hitter he is today.
This contract is also an opportunity for Bautista to prove that last year was a fluke. With $18 Million guaranteed this season, he could conceivably re-enter free agency if he puts together another strong season, and take another chance at getting that payout. This deal is really the best that Bautista could have hoped for at this point.