The free agent market in MLB has been slower than expected for some of the best players available.
Edwin Encarnacion tried to get a $100M deal, but instead chose to sign with the Cleveland Indians for $65M. Others like Mike Napoli and Jason Hammel remain unsigned. And the biggest arms on the market already signed with other teams. But one player has struggled to get any sort of recognition despite his impressive production over the past decade. We’re talking about Jose Bautista.
Let’s face it, it’s not a secret he’s coming off a down year. Between injuries and struggles at the plate, the 36-year-old only hit .234/.366/.452 with 22 HR and 69 RBI. But he’s been an above-average offensive player for the past seven seasons, and his numbers can’t be taken for granted. One year ago he had a 40-HR season, and he should be able repeat that if he stays healthy.
Not to mention he has adjusted to the market. Bautista announced he wanted to explore free agency, but teams have been reluctant to offer him multi-year deals. That was a likely outcome considering he’s quickly approaching 40. But to write him off completely? That’s absolutely insane, considering he can still hit and he’d fit perfectly as a DH in the American League.
So far the only team that has shown any sort of interest has been the Toronto Blue Jays. Let’s not forget Bautista has been with the Canadian franchise for the past nine years, and he’s hit .261/.382/.528 over that span. He’s been a force in the middle of the lineup, but apparently he wants around $20M per year to stick around. Meanwhile, Toronto has only offered a bit north of $17M. There’s still time left to reach an agreement, but Bautista isn’t getting any younger.
The lack of a market for him has been surprising, but Bautista needs to do what’s best for his career. Considering his option, a one-year deal with the Blue Jays doesn’t sound so bad. The worst case scenario is that he struggles again and decides what to do after the 2017 season. But he can turn things around, and in that scenario he might help Toronto make a playoff push. Or he could be traded to a contending team considering he’d only be a rental. The possibility of a bounce-back season is certainly there for one of the most talented hitters in all of baseball.
Bautista needs to stop testing the market. Toronto needs him, and the franchise wants him back. The fans want him back as well. And why would he deny a final year to the team where he transformed himself into one of the most dangerous hitters in the past decade?
It seems like a match made in heaven, so both teams need to act quickly. At this point, the sooner the better.