Jose Bautista is among the many impending Toronto Blue Jays free agents first-year general manager Ross Atkins must deal with by this time next year, and contract discussions with the 12-year veteran slugger are reportedly set to begin during spring training.
Continue for updates.
Bautista Comments on Future with Blue Jays
Friday, Feb. 5
"Fans-wise, city-wise, having the country behind us and every other aspect of being a Toronto Blue Jay player is something that I love," Bautista said, per Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. "Now, hopefully, that matches up with the new front office desire to win now, kind of like myself."
Atkins to Meet with Bautista Next Week
Sunday, Jan. 10
Atkins said on MLB Network Radio that he will meet with Bautista next week to discuss his future:
Atkins says he's spent time with Encarnacion, Plans to meet Bautista next week. Says made it clear they want an extension, no offers yet— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 10, 2016
The Blue Jays exercised Bautista’s option for $14 million in November after Toronto’s exit from the American League Championship Series.
Atkins’ predicament is that Bautista will become a free agent in the same offseason as fellow slugger Edwin Encarnacion—both of whom will command hefty figures.
But the dilemma isn’t only in terms of dollars.
Bautista is 35 years old, and Encarnacion is 33, meaning the Jays must decide whether locking up two aging players for a pretty penny is worth it.
Atkins acknowledged it will be challenging to come to an agreement while also keeping the team's long-term plans intact, per MLB Network Radio:
It’s the kind of thing where it’s a huge decision either way, either angle. It's going to take a lot of work on our end and I think what we’ve been focused on to date is, how do we make this team better without sacrificing our future? We’ll continue to do that as we factor in the decision to extend them or hopefully come to terms with something that makes them happy. Would we like to have them here long term? Absolutely.
The challenge is, can we see eye to eye on what that value is going to be? That will be the challenging part.
Here is the full interview:
Should the Blue Jays lose out on either in free agency, they’d receive a compensatory draft pick. But that’s not necessarily going to replace two massive voids in the lineup—and certainly not immediately.
Atkins is taking over for Alex Anthopoulos, the reigning MLB Executive of the Year, per Sporting News, who built the Blue Jays into World Series favorites last season with aggressive trades that brought in superstars Troy Tulowitzki and David Price.
The Bautista and Encarnacion sagas come with the territory, and though he’s fresh on the job, how Atkins deals with each will be a major factor in how his tenure in Toronto plays out.