Bautista says he took less money but is happy in Toronto
TORONTO (AP) Jose Bautista said Saturday he took less money to re-sign with the Toronto Blue Jays but is happy even though he didn't get a long-term contract.
The free agent slugger agreed to an $18.5 million, one-year contract Tuesday that includes mutual options for more years.
The 36-year-old Bautista said he wanted to stay because he's been in Toronto a long time and enjoyed so much success. He said he didn't know if it was possible that he could return but felt there was mutual interest all along.
''You get what you can get and the most important thing is being happy,'' Bautista said. ''I'm happy and where I want to be.''
A longtime fan favorite, Bautista hit 22 homers with 69 RBIs last year while batting .234 in an injury-slowed season.
A year ago, Bautista was asking Toronto for a contact believed to be worth $150 million. That market didn't materialize, and he was hurt because other teams would have lost a high draft pick had they signed him.
He did not accept Toronto's $17.2 million, one-year qualifying offer this offseason, instead deciding to test free agency.
''It had some impact,'' Bautista said of the draft pick compensation. His age and an abundance of power hitters on the market also worked against him.
''I had other opportunities and other options, but I wanted to be back here, so here I am,'' he said.
Bautista (265) ranks second behind Carlos Delgado (336) on the club's career home run list. After the Blue Jays ended a 22-year playoff drought with their AL East title in 2015, Bautista hit a memorable three-run homer in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Texas, punctuating his shot with a dramatic bat flip.
He believes Toronto can still win and he loves its ''crazy and loud'' fans.
''It ends up becoming a part of you,'' he said. ''All those things make Toronto extremely desirable.''
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said Thursday that ownership got involved in the re-signing and expects Bautista to perform more like the 2015 season than the 2016 season.�He hit 40 homers and had 114 RBI in 2015.
Bautista said he's healthy and believes he can contribute on defense again. He had one of the strongest arms in baseball before he hurt it two years ago. He aggravated it while angrily trying to throw out a runner at first base during a heated series with the Baltimore Orioles.
''My arm is two years away from an injury and feeling much better than it did last year at this time,'' he said. ''I'm excited about that and to contribute on defense like I use too.''