After a free agent market that didn’t materialize to his liking, outfielder Jose Bautista has returned to the Toronto Blue Jays, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2018, according to Ken Rosenthal. Jon Heyman reports that Bautista will get $18 million guaranteed in 2017, and up to $60 million total if both options are picked up.
“We clearly need a corner outfielder and Jose’s probably the most talented one out there as far as offensive production goes and pedigree and track record,” Toronto team president Mark Shapiro said on the Jeff Blair Show on Toronto radio on Friday.
Bautista, now 36, hit .234/.366/.452, a 117 OPS+ with 22 home runs, 24 doubles, 69 RBI, and 87 walks in 116 games with the Blue Jays in 2016.
Bautista was slowed by a pair of disabled list stints last season, missing 30 games in June and July with a hyperextended big toe, then missing another 12 games in August with a left knee sprain.
The six-time All-Star has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last seven seasons, one of five players to do so, along with Giancarlo Stanton, David Ortiz, Brian McCann, and Nelson Cruz. During that span (2010-16), Bautista has hit .264/.387/.542, a 151 OPS+, averaging 36 home runs, 25 doubles, 93 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 94 walks in 135 games.
Bautista made $14 million in 2016, the final year of a five-year contract extension plus an option that he signed with Toronto back in 2011.
Bautista declined the Blue Jays’ qualifying offer — a one-year deal worth $17.2 million — meaning that another team signing him would have had to forfeit their first-round selection in the 2017 MLB draft, which helped suppress his market.
Then again, it has been a rough market on power hitters this winter. Yoenis Cespedes signed early and got $110 million over four years from the New York Mets, and Bautista’s former teammate Edwin Encarnacion got three years and $60 million from the Cleveland Indians. But Mark Trumbo, who led the majors with 47 home runs in 2016, remains unsigned, as does former Brewers first baseman Chris Carter, who tied for the National League lead with 41 home runs.