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Inbox: Could Blue Jays sign Bautista to 1-year deal?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
December 16, 2016

The Blue Jays have the money and roster space to re-sign José Bautista. Why not bring him back on a one-year deal? We need his bat! -- Tim C., TorontoBautista would have to be open to that idea, and there have been no indications he's willing to entertain a one-year

The Blue Jays have the money and roster space to re-sign José Bautista. Why not bring him back on a one-year deal? We need his bat!
-- Tim C., Toronto

Bautista would have to be open to that idea, and there have been no indications he's willing to entertain a one-year deal. As previously reported here, Toronto never went beyond the one-year qualifying offer worth $17.2 million. Yes, the Jays and Bautista's representatives talked at the Winter Meetings, but no progress was made and it appears as though each side is moving on.
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The representatives for Bautista remain confident he will eventually secure a multiyear deal. That doesn't look promising at the moment, but Bautista's situation isn't exactly unique, and with a lot of free agents still available, it's possible the market has just been slow to develop. If Bautista has to wait until next month, then that's what he'll do.
Despite all of this, Bautista's return can't be 100 percent ruled out. Draft-pick compensation is scaring away some teams, and if that multiyear deal doesn't surface before Spring Training, Bautista may have no choice but to circle back. Even so, odds are with that type of talented bat, a team is going to make a play, and it won't be the Blue Jays.
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Do you think [Orioles GM] Dan Duquette's comments hurt Bautista's value? 
-- Ken D., Windsor, Ontario

Duquette's comments caused quite a stir, but did anything he said really come as a surprise? He called Bautista a villain and suggested that signing him would be a tough sell to the Orioles' fan base, and there might be some truth in that. Bautista has had multiple clashes with Baltimore over the years and has never received a warm reception at Camden Yards. But then again, neither has Josh Donaldson, and if he were a free agent right now, I doubt Duquette would be saying the same thing.
The reality is that this likely doesn't have anything to do with Baltimore's fan base. Bautista might not be liked there, but if he went to the Orioles and played well, all would be forgiven. The deeper issue stems from Bautista's relationship with Baltimore's coaching staff. Manager Buck Showalter, who wields a lot of power, has gotten into several verbal spats with Bautista, and has made no secret of his feelings about him. These two were not going to work together any time soon.
Why are the Blue Jays treating Justin Smoak as a roadblock to signing Edwin Encarnacion? Trade him and then Encarnacion can get all of the playing time he needs.
-- Brett W., Moncton, New Brunswick

The problem is that just assumes Smoak is someone who could easily be traded, when in reality that's probably not the case. There isn't exactly a large market right now for a glove-first corner infielder, who might have a lot of pop, but also struggles to make consistent contact. There are free-agent options who could be had for a similar price, so working something out with Toronto doesn't make a lot of sense.
This was the risk the Blue Jays took when they signed Smoak to a two-year extension last summer. His $4.125 million salary next season won't stop the Blue Jays from making a big move, but it's significant enough that the club would think twice about eating the entire salary. At this point, it's hard to envision another team taking on his deal, let alone surrendering any kind of asset to get it done. No one is going to say Smoak can replace Encarnacion, but Toronto has committed to using him as a platoon with Steve Pearce.
Encarnacion still hasn't signed anywhere. Don't you think it makes Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro look silly that they pulled Encarnacion's offer so quickly? He should have been brought back by now.
-- Stephanie G., London, Ontario

The reality is that mistakes were likely made on both sides. In hindsight, Encarnacion probably should have accepted Toronto's four-year deal worth $80 million, because he might be hard-pressed to match that in a market with few clear suitors. In similar fashion, the Blue Jays could have been more patient before pulling their offer, because if the money and roster space was still there, these two sides likely would have worked something out.

One thing that didn't happen as initially reported, though, was the timeline surrounding Toronto's offer. Early reports suggested the Blue Jays did not give Encarnacion time to speak with other teams. That might have been the original intention, but that's not how it worked out, and Encarnacion had multiple days to weigh Toronto's offer during the free-agency period. His agent made a bet that the Blue Jays weren't serious about moving onto other targets, but apparently they were. Both sides might lose out as a result.
Do you think the Blue Jays will keep Joe Biagini in the bullpen next season, or will he become the sixth starter and depth?
-- Jonathan P., Toronto

When 2016 came to an end it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Biagini would begin his transition to the rotation. That plan has since appeared to change, and it's likely being done more out of necessity than anything else. For a team with so many question marks, the Blue Jays can't afford the loss of Biagini's quality innings in middle relief.

Roberto Osuna and Jason Grilli are the only two relievers with guaranteed jobs heading into camp. Even if some additional bullpen arms are added, it likely won't be enough of a splash to push Biagini out of a job. Instead of beginning the year in the rotation at Triple-A, expect Biagini to start right where he finished last season.
So we're into December and the Blue Jays have one starting outfielder. I'd go after Ben Revere and Mark Trumbo. What about you?
-- Adam E., Vancouver, British Columbia

If I'm the Blue Jays, I still go back to Bautista and make a competitive two-year offer. That might not be enough to get something done, but his market remains unclear, and a two-year deal with an opt-out after the first year might be enough. Yes, Bautista's value took a big hit following an injury-plagued season, but let's not forget he still put up 22 homers and a .366 OBP. Put him in right field for one more year, and if he's with the club beyond that, he could spend some time at first base.
I don't expect any of that to happen, though. More realistically, I think the club would look to bring back Michael Saunders or sign Brandon Moss. Both players seemed like locks to receive qualifying offers earlier in the year, but their stock dropped following disappointing second halves. Neither would require a long-term deal and would give the Blue Jays some power from the corner-outfield spots.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.