The 2017 season was easily Jose Bautista’s worst since his memorable breakout campaign in 2010, but the soon-to-be 37-year-old has no plans to retire, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports. If the right fielder does play somewhere next season, it probably won’t be in Toronto, which informed Bautista a couple weeks ago that it will buy him out for $500K in lieu of exercising its half of his $17MM mutual option, according to Davidi. Considering Bautista’s struggles this year, the decision was an obvious one for the Blue Jays, who gave the franchise icon a hero’s sendoff during their final home series of the season from Sept. 22-24.
A Blue Jay since August 2008, when they acquired him from Pittsburgh in a swap for catcher Robinzon Diaz (who had his last of 148 major league plate appearances in 2009), Bautista now stands as one of the greatest players in team history. Across 5,272 PAs with the Jays, Bautista slashed .253/.372/.506 with 288 home runs – second to Carlos Delgado in club history. While Bautista’s regular-season production in Toronto was outstanding, his go-ahead three-run homer and subsequent bat flip in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against the Rangers will go down as his signature moment as a Jay.
Unfortunately for the Jays and Bautista, his offensive output began tailing off significantly the next season. At .234/.366/.452 with 22 long balls in 517 trips to the plate, Bautista logged above-average numbers in 2016, but they paled in comparison to his previous totals.
Thanks to his offensive decline and his inability to offer much value as either a defender or baserunner, he sat on the free agent market into last January until re-signing with the Blue Jays on a deal that guaranteed him $18MM this season and could have been worth another $37MM had he played out the options over the next two years. But Bautista sealed his fate in 2017 by hitting a mere .203/.308/.366 in 686 PAs and finishing with the majors’ seventh-worst fWAR among position players (minus-0.5). Along the way, he registered his worst strikeout and walk rates as a Jay (24.8 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively), his lowest ISO (.164), and his highest chase and swinging-strike rates (25.3 percent and 10.9 percent). Bautista also wasn’t the Statcast darling he had been in prior seasons, recording a paltry .304 expected weighted on-base average (via Baseball Savant) that nearly matched his actual wOBA (.301).
Judging by his stark dropoff in 2017, the upcoming winter figures to be far less lucrative for Bautista than the last one. Nevertheless, it won’t stop him from seeking another contract. Should Bautista land another deal, it probably won’t come from the Jays, though he told Davidi that he’d like to stay where is.
“All I can do is get ready for next season and be ready to contribute to the team that I’m with at that time,” Bautista said. “Right now I’m a Toronto Blue Jay, and that hasn’t changed. I’ve said it all along, this is where I want to be and finish my career. We’ll see what happens in the future. It’s out of my control now.”