The Blue Jays officially declined their end of Jose Bautista’s $17MM mutual option for 2018, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link). The Jays informed Bautista of the move back in September, and GM Ross Atkins confirmed during his end-of-season talk with reporters that the option wouldn’t be picked up. Bautista will receive $500K for the option’s buyout.
It seemed as if Bautista and the Blue Jays would part ways after winter, but after Bautista failed to drum up much interest in free agency, he re-signed with Toronto for a one-year, $18.5MM deal (which included the 2018 mutual option and a 2019 vesting option worth $20MM). Any hopes the Jays had of scoring a bargain were dashed after Bautista followed up an injury-plagued down year in 2016 with a sub-replacement level (-0.5 fWAR) 2017 season. Bautista hit just .203/.308/.366 over 686 plate appearances, managing 23 homers but creating 20 percent fewer runs (80 wRC+) than the average batter.
Bautista said he wants to continue his career, though at age 37 and with two declining years now on his record, he may be hard-pressed to even find a Major League contract this winter. He has expressed an openness to playing first base in the past, so that extra bit of versatility could help his case, particularly since his right field defense has been subpar over the last few season. Atkins described the chances of Bautista returning to Toronto on a smaller contract next season as “very unlikely,” which isn’t a surprise since the Jays are looking to get younger and more athletic, plus the DH spot is filled by Kendrys Morales.