Bautista Update: Rosenthal Says That, If Completed, It Will Be For One Year With A Mutual Option

José Bautista
Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Well here’s an interesting twist in the still-ongoing José Bautista saga:

I don’t think we should get too concerned about the word “if” in there, or the idea that this may conflict with the reports of a two-year deal (which this basically still is). It sure feels like the Blue Jays are resigned to the fact that José Bautista is coming home. But that mutual option bit sure seems fun, doesn’t it? We get to do this all again next year!

At least, that seems the most likely scenario if Rosenthal is, indeed, correct. Either Bautista has a good year and opts out, or he doesn’t and the Jays cut loose a guy they maaaayyyyybe didn’t really want to bring back anyway. (Y’know, given that they seemed to do everything they could to find an alternative.)

I’m sure that, theoretically, there’s a scenario where it works for both sides, but it’s not exactly an easy one to see. Maybe if José has a big first half and gets hurt? Maybe if his expected market value is going to be higher than what the option year would pay him, but not so much higher that it’s worth it to him to go elsewhere and give up the secondary revenue streams that come from being the face of the Toronto Blue Jays? 

I don’t know.

The draft pick will no longer be attached to him, so Bautista will have more interest from around the league next winter than he did this time, pretty much regardless of how his 2017 goes. And if the Jays want him back, someone else surely will too. And if they don’t, well… here we go again.

That said: the Red Sox and David Ortiz took a vaguely similar route as Big Papi finished out his career in Boston. Ortiz was on the cusp of free agency in early November of 2012 when the Red Sox got him to agree to a two-year extension — not unlike the route the Jays tried to take with Edwin Encarnación this winter — and then when that contract ended, like Bautista, he signed a one-year deal — albeit one with two club options that could vest with a certain number of plate appearances.

It’s not quite the same situation, but what it means is that it’s certainly not impossible for clubs to go something close to year-to-year with their aging stars and make it work.

Do I think the relationship between the Jays and Bautista will work out as happily as the denouement of Ortiz’s career in Boston? Judging by how long this took and how clearly it seems that the Jays tried to pursue alternatives, I don’t. But it’s not impossible. A lot can change in a year — it certainly did from a year ago, when José was said to be asking for a six-year contract north of $150 million.

And at least now both sides, and the fans, have a moment to exhale, and to start dreaming in earnest that this next year could still truly bring great things on the field for the Toronto Blue Jays. Finally.

Update to the update: Twitterer @brendonkuhn tells me that Benny Fresh suggested (somewhere) that the mutual option may just be a way to defer some money. Not sure if that works or not, as we’ve heard in the past that the Jays don’t count buyouts as being on the books for year that’s being bought out (i.e. his buyout would still need to be accounted for in the 2017 budget), but maybe that was just an excuse the Beeston-era Jays used for not spending more, or maybe there are ways around it — a stipulation that the buyout be paid on a certain date in 2018, for example. If they’re able to do it that way, it does make some sense. Both sides know it’s highly unlikely that they’ll both want to exercise the option next winter, so they could lower José’s 2017 salary — giving the front office more resources to operate with now — and still make sure he gets the same amount of money overall by building in a big buyout. 

Maybe? I dunno. But it was a thought worth a thought… I think.