The Toronto Blue Jays have signed Jose Bautista to a one-year contract that includes a mutual option for 2018, the team announced Wednesday.
The deal completes a reunion that seemed highly unlikely as recently as last month. It’s valued at $18 million with a $17-million mutual option for 2018 and a $20-million vesting option for 2019. Should either the Blue Jays or Bautista decline the option on 2018 a $500,000 buyout will be issued.
After joining the Blue Jays in a seemingly minor 2008 trade, Bautista became one of the game’s most feared power hitters. The 36-year-old ranks second in Blue Jays history with 265 home runs behind only Carlos Delgado and ninth in games played with 1,078.
Injuries limited Bautista to just 116 games in 2016, when he hit .234 with 22 home runs and an OPS of .817. He generated 1.4 Wins Above Replacement, his lowest total as a member of the Blue Jays.
A reunion provides a local boost for the Blue Jays after the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and an off-season that to this point is highlighted by the signings of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce.
Bautista’s return seemed highly unlikely through most of the off-season as the Blue Jays extended him a qualifying offer and then did very little other negotiating with him.
Being tied to draft pick compensation surely impacted his market given that he’s entering his age 36 season after a pair of DL stints limited his production last year. The Blue Jays, who gained a first-round selection when Encarnacion signed with Cleveland, surrender the pick Bautista would have fetched them as they try to maximize their current window of opportunity.
Bautista was by far the best offensive player left on the free agent market and offered a significant upgrade for several teams.
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