Who says you can’t go home?
Forced, not even remotely accurate Bon Jovi reference aside, JosA� Bautista is doing just that by remaining in Torontoa��the place he’s called home for the past nine years. For the longest time, that didn’t seem like how this story was going to end. But when the 2017 trade deadline comes and goes, a decade will have passed since Bautista arrived via trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. And what a near-decade it’s been.
Six All-Star appearances. Four times finishing within the Top 10 of MVP voting. The best numbers of all five teams he’s ever played for, and by a wide margin. Dingers on dingers on dingers. And of course, the greatest bat heave this world has ever seen. Perhaps a�?heavea�? isn’t the most suitable word, but calling it a flip would be doing this form of high art a disservice.
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As for the deal itself, maybe it’s not exactly what he wanted, but that’s how it goes. Another year in Toronto, this time for $18 milliona��or, a little more than the qualifying offer. And it could end up being significantly more, as two options could see that dollar amount rise to $60 million. Now maybe that won’t happen. Hell, it almost certainly won’t. But all that matters is that 2017 is now a guaranteea��Joey Bats isn’t going anywhere.
But let’s take a trip back to when Bautista was asking for more than the $150 million originally reported. Oh, and there was wiggle room whatsoever. This was made explicitly clear when discussing a possible hometown discount, telling MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm a�?In my eyes, I’ve given this organization a five-year hometown discount already.a�? Looking back at the extension he signed in 2011, it wasn’t difficult to understand his angle.
From 2011 through 2015, Bats slashed .270/.393/.540 (with a .933 OPS). One year prior, he would lead the league in home runs with 54. He would do so again in 2011, while also leading in walks (132), slugging percentage (.608), OPS (1.056) and even intentional walks (24). Season after season kept producing jaw-dropping number after jaw-dropping number. Before arriving in Toronto, Bautista had just 43 dingers to his name. 265 long balls later, and here we are.
But the slugger, now 36, didn’t do himself too many favors in 2016. Certainly not enough to warrant anything near $150 million. Or, five more guaranteed years, for that matter. He would appear in the fewest amount of games (116) since 2012 (92). Despite a still strong OPS (.817), his triple-slasha��.234/.366/.452a��was down across the board. 22 home runs was his lowest output since his first full season with the Jays back in 2009 (13). And yet, his wRC+ of 122 would not only remain above average, but also rank T-18th among AL position players (minimum 500 plate appearances). In his previous six seasons with Toronto, that wRC+ rested at an average of 154.
So yes, 2016 didn’t reflect the numbers we became accustomed to seeing. Sure, there was a fair amount of regression. And yet, still steady enough production. Not enough for any other club to take him on, of course (giving up a draft pick for a 36-year-old regressing slugger isn’t ideal, after all) but let’s not bury the beast of the AL East just yet. He’s a superstar, and he’s staying right where he became one.
JosA� Bautista is loved, he’s reviled, and he’s right where he belongs.