Veteran free agent Jose Bautista could be willing to take a one-year deal to return to the Blue Jays if the value exceeds that of the $17.2 million qualifying offer, according to a report from Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan on Friday night.
Bautista's willingness to sign a one-year contract improves the likelihood that Toronto could bring him back, since it could see if he regains the form that made him the face of the franchise without having to commit to the 36-year-old long term. Bautista is coming off one of his worst seasons since coming to Toronto, an injury-marred 2016 in which he batted .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBIs in 116 games.
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In the six previous seasons, Bautista had made six All-Star teams and led the Major Leagues in homers twice while batting .268/.390/.555 and averaging 38 homers and 97 RBIs. With a one-year deal, Toronto could bet on Bautista rebounding without risking tying up a large amount of salary past 2017.
Plus, Bautista loves playing in Toronto. A person close to him told Passan: "That's where his heart is. He wants to go back there."
But MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported on Monday that the Blue Jays have yet to make Bautista a formal offer for more than the one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer, so it's unclear whether they're willing to sign him to a more expensive one-year deal that would also cost them a compensatory Draft pick due to Bautista rejecting the qualifying offer.
Still, the potential for a Bautista-Toronto reunion appears stronger than it did earlier in the offseason, when it seemed unlikely that Bautista would be a Blue Jay in 2017.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.