In 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays ended a 21-year playoff drought and came within two wins of a trip to the World Series. Now, that window of being a contender may be in danger of closing just as quickly as it opened.
Toronto already lost David Price to free agency, a pitcher that cost the Jays their top prospect, pitcher Daniel Norris, and two other prospects. Now they may be just months away from losing the most popular player on the team, slugger Jose Bautista.
Bautista is in the final year of a 6-year, $78 million contract. At $13 million per year, this contract has been a steal for a player who has averaged 38 home runs the last six seasons and is as popular as Bautista.
Now it sounds like the days of the Blue Jays receiving a discount for Bautista are over and it probably means the end of his time in Toronto is coming soon.
Bautista was asked about giving the Jays a hometown discount and he made it clear that is not happening.
Bautista took it a step further, saying that he told the Blue Jays what he wanted in a new contract and that it was basically a take-it-or-leave-it offer.
“I did not go to them. They asked me a question, ‘What would it take to get it done?’ and I gave them an answer,” Bautista told ESPN’s Britt McHenry. “I felt like for this process to go down smoothly there didn’t need to be any time wasted and efforts wasted for either party. If this is going to happen, they should know what it takes, and I told them the number because they asked me … I’m not going to sit here and bargain for a couple of dollars. They either meet it or it is what it is.”
Buster Olney of ESPN says these comments are actually a blessing in disguise because they make it easier to cut ties with Bautista.
“The public negotiating play by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista actually took pressure off the Blue Jays’ front office,” Olney wrote. “He did [president Mark] Shapiro and [general manager Ross] Atkins a huge favour by making hard demands for his next contract. Giving a 35-year-old player — Bautista turns 36 next fall — a four- or five-year top-of-the-market deal does not make sense for the Blue Jays. Making that sort of deal is not quite like banking on winning the lottery to fund your retirement, but it’s close.”
While giving a 36-year-old player a huge contract is normally a bad idea, it is not quite that simple with Bautista. First of all, he is in great condition and still highly productive, having hit 75 home runs the last two seasons, not including his dramatic go-ahead home run in the ALDS to help beat the Rangers.
And then there is Bautista’s popularity. This isn’t a free agent being brought in from the outside. Easily the most popular player among fans who were just given a taste for the playoffs for the first time in two decades, it won’t be easy letting Bautista walk
And you can bet the fans won’t be happy if Bautista is on another team in 2017, especially if the Jays are a 75-win team just because the front office wasn’t willing to make up for the bargain contract they enjoyed for so long.
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