Jose Bautista is no longer a Toronto Blue Jay.
The Blue Jays, in a move that confirmed what they told Bautista prior to the end of the season, officially declined the right fielder's mutual option for 2018 on Saturday evening.
One of the best careers in Toronto sports history ended on a sour note in Bautista's last two seasons, where he first struggled to stay healthy, then to produce every day with the major-league team.
Bautista missed considerable time in 2016 with turf toe suffered when he lodged his foot into the bottom portion of an outfield wall in Philadelphia.
This passing season, Bautista hit .203 and posted 170 strikeouts with just 84 walks. His on-base percentage of .308 was his worst since 2005 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his second season in the majors, when he played in 11 games.
“I know that I want to come back,” Bautista told Toronto media after his final game at home in the 2017 season, where he exited to a poignant ovation from the Toronto fans. “I’ve always been clear about that [and] that’s never gonna change.”
Although the possibility remains that Toronto could resign Bautista to a more team-friendly deal, experts agree that this prospect is unlikely. Still, the Blue Jays are seeking outfield help for 2018, as evidenced by the recent rumour that the team is expected to pursue Jay Bruce this offseason.
The move to decline the mutual option, on the team’s part, was not a surprise. Given the size of the option and the lack of production from Bautista, it was clear even before it was reported that the team had made their decision that the option would be declined.
Bautista signed a one-year, $18 million contract with a mutual option for 2018 and vesting option for 2019 last offseason, when he first hit the free agent market.
Bautista is 37 years old and represented by the agent Jay Alou.