Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista met with multiple reporters at the Jays’ Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Fla. today, and a potential extension was among the topics discussed. However, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi write, Joey Bats isn’t interested in giving the Blue Jays any form of hometown discount. Bautista, who is eligible for free agency next offseason, said that he met with the Blue Jays two weeks ago and named his asking price. Toronto president of baseball operations Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins sought to negotiate, but that isn’t in Bautista’s plans.
“I’m not willing to negotiate,” Bautista candidly explained. “I don’t think there should be any negotiation. I think I’ve proven myself.”
It’s hard to argue with the notion that Bautista has done anything short of that since signing his five-year, $65MM contract with the Blue Jays prior to the 2011 season. Since that time, Bautista has posted a .270/.393/.540 batting line with 173 home runs. Even when factoring in his hitter-friendly home park, Bautista’s bat has been 55 percent better than the league-average hitter, according to OPS+, and 54 percent better than average, per wRC+. Both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs agree that he’s been worth between 26 and 27 wins above replacement in that time frame.
That production, relative to his cost, makes it relatively easy to see why Bautista would say, “In my eyes, I’ve given this organization a five-year hometown discount already.” Of course, Bautista knew the risk he was taking in signing that deal; the possibility always existed that he’d continue the torrid pace from his 2010 breakout and turn the contract into a massive bargain, just as the Blue Jays knew there was a possibility that he’d decline and leave them holding one of Major League Baseball’s least desirable contracts.
Bautista tells reporters that he met with Shapiro and Atkins for about 15 minutes. “I didn’t want to waste any time,” Bautista explained. “If this is going to happen, I think it should be natural, organic, quick and easy, it shouldn’t be a pull and tug about a few dollars here or there. I didn’t want to waste any time, I didn’t want to waste their time or their effort, so they can start planning ahead, and if it’s not going to happen they have plenty of time to do so.”
It’s unclear what Bautista specified in terms of years or dollars, although a five-year deal certainly seems like a possibility. Chisholm, in fact, tweets that Bautista was asked whether he thinks he can play for another five years, and the slugger was “emphatic” in responding in the affirmative. Earlier this offseason, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk examined Bautista’s extension candidacy, noting that Bautista seems very likely to be able to secure at least a four-year deal at a premium rate — well north of $20MM — as a free agent next winter, assuming a typical Bautista season. I’d agree that a healthy four-year deal is a safe expectation, with a five-year deal certainly on the table should he approach last year’s production.