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Bats is back: Six reasons Bautista is Blue Jays gold

After some back and forth between the Toronto front office and Bautista’s representatives, the two parties have come to an agreement (pending a standard physical).

This might just be the smartest move Toronto has made in the offseason; of course that’s not the biggest hurdle to conquer after losing potential free agent signings by Dexter Fowler and Edwin Encarnacion, but it’s important all the same. At the time of this article, the exact amount of the deal was not available, but it is reported to be higher than the 17.2 million offered to Bautista by the team back at the start of the offseason.

Getting back part of your 2016 team is not the sexiest free agent acquisition as far as offseason moves go. But when it comes to Bautista, there’s a lot of reasons to see this as a smart move.

Wisdom (and a ridiculous amount of home runs) comes with age
As Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro said of his recent talks with Theo Epstein of the Cubs, the emphasis on players now is simple: ‘young’. That’s what pushed the Cubs towards two amazing years of post-season success, including their first World Series trophy since 1908. The Blue Jays, also enjoying two years of post-season glory, bucked that trend — last year, the Blue Jays were the MLB’s oldest team by average age of their players.

This may not be the end of Bautista’s career. True enough, players over 40 are rare in baseball, and position players worth talking about are even rarer. But that’s not to say that exceptional hitters can’t stick around: Ichiro Suzuki, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran all added significant value to their teams this year. And while two of those players are now out of the game, it at least shows that 36-year-old Bautista, if he can stay healthy and adjust to life as more of a first baseman and DH, could be playing for four or so more years.

Victory lap
A one-year deal, with a mutual option to extend another year, allows the team to work around the uncertainty of performance that Bautista’s age brings. With a one-year contract, you get a chance to build up the value of the player if he has a good year, and with it, the franchise. There’s mutual interest built into a deal like that between a franchise player and his team. If only we’d seen a similarly limited contract awarded to the newly acquired switch-hitting DH Kendrys Morales…

Bats, Joey Bats
Sure, sure, it’s cliche, but you can’t deny the value of returning the hometown hero to his rightful throne. Bautista joined the Blue Jays in 2008 to very little fanfare, but within a decade, he grasped more awards than a Jays batter in years: two times a home run leader, three-time silver slugger, he set the franchise record for home runs in a single season, and sits behind only Carlos Delgado for the team’s all-time total home run record. Back in the late 2000s, the team was in a sustained lull after many years of being competitive, but never cracking through the divine heights of that era’s Yankees and Red Sox teams. With the trade of ace pitcher Roy Halladay to the Phillies, there was a vacuum of heart present in the team. Thankfully, Bautista stepped up, and provided Toronto fans with some captivating firework home runs. See below for an apt poetic pitting of Halladay vs. Bautista on the ace’s return to his team’s ballpark back in 2011 — and apologies for the shaky, fired up crowd cam.

He gets on base — a lot
Bautista is the Jays’ franchise leader in walks in a single season (an astounding 132 in 2011), and the slugger has excelled at getting on base every year since he joined the team. True, 2016 was a bit of a dip in his performance, but that can mostly be chalked up to injuries. If Bautista continues to deliver his average amount of walks and slugging (.861 over his career), he’ll be a far superior contribution to the team compared to other outfielders that were up for grabs this offseason (looking at you Jay Bruce and Michael Saunders). And if not, as said above, it’s only a year.

Bad outfielding is good outfielding
In terms of recent team history, the Jays have been very comfortable stocking their outfield with sub-par defense in order to supply offense. This is how we saw the rugged individualism of Melky Cabrera working the outfield. Or Michael Saunders’ interesting paths to track down fly balls. Having Kevin Pillar’s incredible defense saves the team from too many slip ups. For now, I can live with that if Toronto can keep pushing more power out of its corner outfielders — during a time where power is the last thing outfielders are producing. It got the team deep into the postseason two years in a row. Enough said.

The Bat Flip
With Bautista around, the Jays have an excuse to keep messing with Texas, flipping random objects with arrogant charm and generally carrying on like post-season rugrats. Sounds like fun.

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