After looking in yesterday at Edwin Encarnacion’s situation with the Blue Jays, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports provides an update on the team’s stance with regard to fellow slugger Jose Bautista. While Toronto has no intentions of meeting Bautista’s high asking price, the club would be interested in a deal in the range of the contract Yoenis Cespedes signed with the Mets — i.e., three years at around $25MM annually.
Even at that price, says Heyman, it’s no sure thing that the Jays would bite. And even if the team moves into such a range — perhaps including an opt-out opportunity to sweeten the pot — it’s unclear whether Bautista would reciprocate. The word over the winter was that he was seeking five years and $150MM, which in truth always seemed a stretch. Despite his consistent excellence, after all, Bautista is already closing in on his 36th birthday.
With the first half of the year in the books, that kind of payday seems even further from reality. Though a recent toe injury doesn’t reflect any broader health issues, Bautista was off to a relatively pedestrian .230/.360/.455 slash over his first 286 plate appearances.
While he’s still walking as much as he strikes out, isn’t too far off of his usual power output with a .226 ISO, and has been hurt by a .239 BABIP, any erosion in productivity will be watched closely by teams weighing a major investment in an older player. And that’s before considering Bautista’s deteriorating glovework in the outfield, which could soon mandate a shift to first base or a DH role.
As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes explained in his most recent free agent power rankings, it’s not even certain at this point that Bautista will command a fourth guaranteed year in the coming winter. That assessment is impacted, too, by the presence of other high-quality, open-market options — including power bats like Cespedes (assuming he opts out), Encarnacion, and Mark Trumbo as well as strong all-around outfielders such as Josh Reddick, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez, and Michael Saunders.