The Toronto Blue Jays have signed long-time right-fielder, José Bautista, to a new deal, solidifying his spot in the corner outfield. The deal contains a one-year $18.5MM guarantee base, a Mutual Option for the 2nd year, and a vesting option for the 3rd year. This will bring that Jays' payroll to about $155MM, on a budget that was reported to be at $160MM. However, since then, Jeff Blair suggests that Rogers has granted Mark Shapiro additional funds to get the deal done, as well as address other areas of need (which I'll get to). I have yet to hear anything concrete about adding more to payroll, so I think $160MM is the figure we need to sit comfortably on, for now.
The deal certainly makes sense for both parties. José wanted to come back to Toronto
and was willing to settle for a one-year deal to reestablish his value. The Blue Jays needed someone to fill in at least one of the two gaps in the corner outfield spots while at the same time wishing to have the market come to them after failing to sign Dexter Fowler and, reportedly, having come close to making a mega-trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates involving Andrew McCutchen. Not that I want to make it sound like the Jays kind of settled for Bautista's services but........ it sort of..... feels that way? Maybe?
I really don't want to shit on the "Welcome Back" praises that fans are singing to Bautista. Honestly, I really like the signing and it's great to have a familiar face that was, let's face it, one of the, if not the, most exciting part of the Blue Jays prior to (and including) 2015. However, part of me sees this deal as the Front Office simply placating their fan-base after the whole Edwin thing (that's a whole different conversation, though). It's no secret that José's defensive abilities are on the decline, and perhaps much of his offensive slumps that he experienced last season were due in large part to his injury. But it seems like the internal message here from the Front Office was "Well we have to do something!". I think it's fair to view this move, at least in part, as a "save-face" move to give the fans a familiar face to sell tickets. But, I mean.... yeah, that's just business.
Yet, the other part of me is really happy that the Jays did something to address an area of need by signing the best Free Agent outfielder available. The deal is more than fair, even if José does in fact reestablish his value and move on from the franchise after the 2017 season. It's reasonable to argue that most of Bautista's offensive and defensive woes were largely due to the injury he suffered early in the season. If we can get the 2015 version of Bautista for only $18MM... well then fuck yeah! Let's go! If 30+ HRs, around 100 RBIs, and 125+ hits is what he gives the Jays for one year? Sure! Why not? But if it's a repeat of last year, minus the injuries, and this is in fact Bautista's goodbye from the franchise (for good this time)? Well then, sure! Why not? At least this time the Jays can know for sure that, yes his best days are behind him and it's time to move on.
There are, though, still areas of concern for the Jays that they absolutely need to address. Their bullpen needs to be beefed up a bit. We cannot simply rely on Grilli, Osuna, and Biagini - and that's assuming Biagini is even in the bullpen at all and doesn't transition into the starting rotation. Left-handed relief is an absolute necessity for this team. If the past two ALCS's showed us anything, it is that relief pitching is vital to making it to the World Series.
The Jays will also need a reliable backup catcher. Now HOPEFULLY R.A. Dickey makes it absolutely clear to the Atlanta Braves that Josh Thole needs to be his personal catcher every fifth day. I just don't want a scenario in which we are left dumpster diving for catchers and, low-and-behold, Josh fucking Thole is all that's left. Please...... just..... no.
Lastly, the Jays should find some more outfield depth. Right now, the only real exclusive outfielders are Bautista, Pillar, Upton, and Carrera. Yes, I know Steve Pearce can play outfield, but if we are to believe that Morales is an exclusive DH to the Jays, we will more than likely see Pearce take up the bulk of the first base duties, platooning with Smoak. Also, according to Gibby on the Jeff Blair show, he mentioned that he'd consider Bautista to possibly play some first. Yet, adding another outfielder would do this club very well and could also take a load off of Bautista, should he need it. Just.... ya know.... things to consider.
All in all, I am very happy with the signing and am glad to see Bautista return. Hopefully he can cement his legacy as a Blue Jay and add more reasons than he already has to put his name up on the Level of Excellence. At the very least, he deserves a better send off.