Blue Jays meet with Bautista's agent

Blue Jays meet with Bautista's agent

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. -- The Blue Jays apparently haven't closed the door on re-signing Jose Bautista. The club had an in-person meeting with Bautista's camp on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings for the first time since February.

According to multiple industry sources, the meeting involved conversations about not only Bautista but also free-agent catcher Chris Iannetta, who has the same agent. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins did not specifically comment on the meeting but did say that he has touched base with all of his team's current free agents -- a group that of course includes Bautista.

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It was not immediately clear how serious the discussions were or whether an official offer was made, but it's an interesting development considering there has been plenty of speculation that Bautista was all but officially gone from the organization.

"There is not a free agent here that fits our team that we haven't had discussions with their agents, their representation," Atkins said. "There aren't teams that have pieces that are potentially movable that we haven't touched base with and [had] discussions."

The fact that Toronto met with Bautista's representatives doesn't mean a deal is imminent or even in the works, but it indicates the sides are open-minded about finding common ground. Bautista declined the Blue Jays' $17.2 million qualifying offer in search of a multi-year deal on the open market. If he signs elsewhere, the Blue Jays will receive Draft-pick compensation.

Toronto also has been searching for a backup catcher, and that's where Iannetta could become a potential fit. He is coming off a season in which he hit .210 with a .303 on-base percentage in 94 games for the Mariners. Iannetta is a veteran of 11 big league seasons and has spent time with the Rockies, Angels and Mariners.

The Blue Jays have approximately $135 million committed in payroll next season when factoring in projected arbitration numbers and salaries of players with less than three years' service time. It's believed Toronto will have a budget somewhere in the range of $160 million, which leaves approximately $25 million left to spend this offseason.

Toronto is still looking for at least one outfielder, a backup catcher and a couple of arms for the bullpen. The Blue Jays have been linked to free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler, but it seems extremely unlikely that the club would be able to sign him and also bring back Bautista. It likely would have to be one or the other because of budget restraints -- barring some creative moves by the front office.

Bautista made $14 million in the final season of a five-year deal with the Blue Jays, which included a team option for 2016. His production dropped last season partially because of a pair of injuries that required stints on the disabled list, but he still managed to hit 22 home runs and record a .366 on-base percentage in 517 plate appearances.

The 36-year-old ranks second in Toronto franchise history with 265 home runs. He also ranks fifth in RBIs (701), third in OPS (.910) and second in walks (719).

MLB.com and MLB Network have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.