2016 is a big year for the Toronto Blue Jays. Coming off an emotional playoff run, most fans are positive about the team despite their reservations about a change in management. Why would people not be positive? Most of the offense is back for at least a season, 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson was signed to a team friendly contract extension and reportedly talks between the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were good.
“Were” is the operative word in the last sentence because on the morning of February 22rd, 2016 this happened.
Joey Bats being Joey Bats
Do not fear Blue Jays fans, this could mean that Bautista is using his leverage in his contract negotiations with GM Ross Atkins and is most likely staying in Toronto. Since 2010, Bautista has hit 227 regular season homeruns, that alone makes Bautista a highly sought after player when he enters into free agency after the 2016 season. In addition to that, Bautista is responsible for the best moment the Toronto sports scene has had since 1993 - when his three run blast propelled the Blue Jays to an emotional 6-3 game 5 win over the Texas Rangers.
Bautista in the public’s eyes can do no wrong and by going public he is trying to maximize the amount of leverage he has in this negotiation. Usually this is bad “PR” because it might be seen as selfish but this is a smart move for three reasons.
First, Bautista outperformed his last contract significantly. As mentioned earlier Bautista has hit a lot of homeruns in the last 5 years. Bautista’s 227 homeruns is the most anyone in baseball since 2010. What is even more impressive is that Jose Bautista has demonstrated the ability to perform in big moments. His 2015 playoff run was memorable for the big game 5 ALDS home run against Texas, however, many people forget the valiant 2 homerun effort in the game 6 ALCS against the Kansas City Royals. Not only that but Bautista seems to always hit big homeruns whenever he is “thrown at” or hit by a pitch.
Bautista is due for a big payday and fans understand that.
Two, his passion has been a real hit with the Toronto fan base. Many people love the fact that Bautista plays with a chip on his shoulder. Bautista remembers that he was once thought of as a “Utility player” and it makes him angry. When Bautista is playing, he plays with something to prove and recently has been thought of as one of the defenders of the Latin-American community in baseball. This was on full display when Jose took exception to comments made by Colin Cowherd about Dominicans and Baseball.
This boldness to speak and exude passion give Blue Jays fans a sense of confidence win or lose, but especially win.
Finally, the majority of the Blue Jays fan base do not like the new management. Mark Shapiro did not get on the right foot with the Blue Jays fan base when he reportedly had a falling out with then general manager, Alex Anthopoulos. While this is an alleged falling out and not confirmed, fans have been very critical of Shapiro and new general manager Ross Atkins. While most of the scrutiny has been unwarranted, it is still a fact that this scrutiny is real. Bautista has now gone public with his contract situation and there is no way Shapiro looks good in this situation.
It’s a very shrewd business move and for the most part it is working. The majority of fans are in Bautista’s corner.
In my opinion, I think Bautista is telling the truth when he says he will not negotiate or at least not move from his number significantly. Remember this is the same Jose Bautista who was very negative that the Blue Jays did not do something during the 2014 trade deadline.
Need another example? Sure.
That one time Jose Bautista boycotted one on one interviews with Sportsnet media members until Devon Travis was reimbursed for a suit Travis purchased during a television segment he did with host Hazel Mae. Rogers owns both the Blue Jays and Sportsnet so the Blue Jays organization were pretty up in arms about this whole ordeal to the point where all sides declined to comment.
The point is Bautista has shown that he is not afraid to give the figurative middle finger to his employer. Thus, when Joey Bats says he will not negotiate, it is pretty believable.
According to TSN’s Rick Westhead the number that Bautista is asking for is 5-years $150 million but Bautista quickly denied those reports. Whether or not that number is true, it does not look like Jose Bautista will negotiate.