Bautista Deal Still Expected But Not Yet Set, Plus: Saunders Goes to Philly and a McCutchen Rumour

José Bautista
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Bautista is still technically a free agent, but all the chatter in the world continues to suggest that he’s about to re-sign with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Finally!!!

Ken Rosenthal hears that the deal will be for two years, in the $35-40 million range, while Jon Heyman separately, he says, hears something similar — that the two sides are finalizing a deal believed to be for two years and “about” $37 million.

We can think more on the terms once we know them officially, but for now let’s just say that sounds fucking great.

Heyman adds that he’s heard Cleveland and the Rays — the Rays! — were in the bidding. And actually, despite my surprise, the Rays make sense in that they could probably build some trade value out of him, and because he might have had some interest in playing near his home in the Tampa area.

ESPN’s Enrique Rojas adds (en español), that Bautista indeed received big offers from teams that won’t be competitive in 2017, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! concurs, saying that José turned down bigger offers elsewhere.

One club that also would fit that non-competitive bill, and was rumoured to have interest in Bautista at one point, is the Philadelphia Phillies. Another sign that these rumours have legs is the fact that the Phillies have moved on and, according to a tweet from Jon Heyman, have signed Michael Saunders to a one-year deal with an option. Saunders had said over the weekend that he really wanted to stay in Toronto, and he certainly held out for as long as could in hopes of a reunion, so his quick move to Philadelphia in the wake of all this Bautista talk seems to signal fairly clearly that the Jays really do have another corner outfielder coming into place.

It’s really happening!

Hard to be too overjoyed when it’s something that should have damn well happened anyway, and ideally sooner. But it’s hard to complain considering the numbers that are being thrown out there now, and the fact that a year ago Bautista was reported to be asking for an extension north of five years and $150 million.

That said, holy shit, they sure did test our patience on this one. And, if a fascinating rumour from well-connected Pirates blog Rum Bunter is to be believed (and I think it should be, at least if you read it carefully), that’s because they perhaps were genuinely trying to find an alternative to renewing their vows with Bautista right to the very end.

Quoting their source directly, Rum Bunter gives us this: The “Blue Jays have tried to talk a mega-deal with Pirates about Cutch and [lefty reliever Tony] Watson. Names coming back would have been Guerrero, Reid-Foley, Biagini, Tollez [sic], Harold Ramirez. These were the main names involved obviously nothing has gotten done. With the Jays close to signing Bautista that likely ends talks for now.”

Now that’s some wild stuff right there, and some fans will have a hard time believing it, given that this is a front office that reportedly scolded Alex Anthopoulos for trading away prospects, and that seemed so hung up this winter on getting draft picks.

But it doesn’t quite say that the Jays went all in with all these names at once. It simply says that they “tried to talk” about a McCutchen-Watson deal, and that these were the names involved in the discussion. Talking is a long way from actually getting something done, and so maybe the Jays were simply exploring how far they’d have to go to really get the Pirates’ attention. 

Or maybe, after a year with the previous regime’s farm system, they’ve made their own evaluations, and feel that these are the guys at the top of their system who they see as being overvalued by the industry. Or maybe some are and some would have been the cost of doing business.

Or, sure, maybe it’s not true. But I don’t doubt that, without giving up anything close to the big leagues, or anything that would help Pittsburgh right now, that’s the kind of package that would have to be out there — especially for both McCutchen and Watson — a lefty reliever who had a down year because of home run troubles in 2016, but who had been worth 1.4 wins the previous two seasons each.

Marcus Stroman would likely have changed the equation, but the Jays didn’t go there. That’s a good thing. But a better thing still, I think, is that it shows — if true — that the club is far more invested in 2017, and far less worried about keeping its hands on every young player possible, than I think a lot of fans have come to believe. As does the fact that they’ve finally come to an agreement with the face of their franchise.

The Blue Jays didn’t have to be in the José Bautista business, either. It would have been tough for fans to swallow if the front office had gone in a different direction, especially after the Edwin fiasco, but the people in the front office wouldn’t have lost their jobs for it. They could have let him go elsewhere and weathered the storm, especially if their alternative moves were enough to keep the team looking at least somewhat competitive.

But they didn’t do that. They did the best thing for 2017. It took them fucking long enough! But behind the scenes they were also working a whole lot more than people were willing to give credit to continue to build on what they already have in place.

Today, especially with the McCutchen rumour surfacing, is a victory for every fan who has been shouted down for trying to give this front office even a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. I mean… it’s a victory for all Jays fans, but it’s especially a victory for those ones. 

Now let’s make this damn thing official already and then go find a platoon partner for Upton, more relief help, and a backup catcher. OK????