With each passing day, it appears less likely that Jose Bautista will return to the Blue Jays. If the two sides actually wanted to work something out, then they likely would have done so by now. While the Toronto situation remains at a standstill, Bautista has reportedly been in contact with the Orioles and the Indians. Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal have those stories.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 16, 2017
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 15, 2017
The newest report, from Morosi, appears to make the most sense. It always seemed strange that the Orioles were not interested in Bautista simply because their “fans don’t like him.” With Mark Trumbo‘s departure, Bautista would help improve an outfield that is currently comprised of Hyun-Soo Kim, Adam Jones, and Seth Smith. Whether he could get along with Jones remains to be seen. Bautista could also slot in at DH, as Trey Mancini appears to be the default option at the moment.
The Indians present an intriguing option, though they would have to get creative. Their outfield is already full, while Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana will split the 1B/DH duties. It is possible that Cleveland has doubts about Michael Brantley‘s health, which could nudge them toward signing Bautista. It’s worth noting that Cleveland’s payroll is already at $110M, while last year’s topped out at $114M. Bautista would likely represent a serious commitment for them. At the same time, they have already parted with a first-round pick for Encarnacion, so they would only forfeit a second-round pick for Bautista (unlike the Orioles, who would forfeit their first-rounder).