Why Jose Bautista could be a steal on a one-year deal

Hazel Mae and Ben Nicholson-Smith update fans on all the latest news surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays including Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays search for non-Jose outfield options and Aaron Sanchez’s signing with Boras Corp.

TORONTO – The longer Jose Bautista remains on the open market, the more speculation builds that the two-time home run champion might be willing to accept a one-year deal.

Doing so would theoretically allow Bautista to re-build value in 2017 then hit the market a year from now knowing that teams can’t link him to draft pick compensation with a qualifying offer.

Of course it’s entirely possible that Bautista has multi-year offers, but if he does end up taking a one-year deal he has the potential to be a bargain.

• Bautista still hits the ball hard. Even in a down year, he ranked among the top 20 in baseball in average exit velocity at 92.6 m.p.h., right behind Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes. That power means pitchers avoid the middle of the plate, driving an on-base percentage that hasn’t dipped below .349 in eight seasons.

• Projection systems like Bautista. At FanGraphs ZiPS forecasts a .371 wOBA for Bautista in 2017. (For context, Edwin Encarnacion had a .373 wOBA last year).

• One-year deals are low-risk propositions for teams.

Presented with this line of thinking, one person with a rival team agreed that Bautista may become a low-risk, high-impact signing for someone. A second person said he’s “absolutely” the kind of player who could end up being a bargain on a one-year deal.

To be sure, there are also concerns surrounding the 36-year-old outfielder. Teams aren’t impressed by his defence, wonder about his fit in the clubhouse and are hesitant to surrender a top draft pick.

But for those very reasons a one-year deal might now be a possibility. And none of those potential shortcomings change the fact that Bautista, unlike most of the hitters available in a crowded market for bats, has the ability to rank among baseball’s elite bats this coming season.

Some in the industry still believe the Blue Jays would be happy to let Bautista sign elsewhere and collect a compensatory draft pick. At the same time, there’s surely a breaking point for just about any team, draft pick and all. Where that lands for the Blue Jays is anybody’s guess, but Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, made the case last week that even $20 or $25 million would be justified for a player of Bautista’s calibre.

That’s a bigger commitment than most free agent ‘bargains’ require, but still enough to offer interested teams upside.

CATCHING MARKET MOVING: The Blue Jays still haven’t addressed their need for a backup catcher, but they continued showing interest in Bobby Wilson before the well-traveled catcher signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers last week, according to an industry source.

The Blue Jays wanted to sign Wilson, but he moved on when the team wouldn’t provide assurances that they wouldn’t pursue any other catchers. The 33-year-old spent the 2016 season with the Tigers, Rangers and Rays, hitting .237/.270/.355 with seven home runs in 75 games.

HEADING WEST: Brian Parker, who oversaw four drafts as the Blue Jays’ amateur scouting director before being dismissed last August, is expected to join the Los Angeles Dodgers’ scouting staff, as first reported by John Manuel of Baseball America. Parker, who drafted players such as Sean Reid-Foley, Rowdy Tellez, Conner Greene, Jeff Hoffman, Kendall Graveman and Matt Boyd, would be reunited with former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos in Los Angeles.

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