The rumor mill isn’t done with Jose Bautista just yet. Two days ago, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that the 36-year-old outfielder had engaged in contract discussions with the Blue Jays. It appeared to be a logical choice for both sides, as Bautista has a lengthy history in Toronto and the club wouldn’t have to forfeit a draft pick to re-sign their former slugger.
On Saturday, the Toronto Star’s Richard Griffin dispelled the rumor, saying that neither side had engaged in any serious discussions since Bautista rejected the club’s $17.2 million qualifying offer in November, despite talks at the Winter Meetings in early December. If any deal is extended to Bautista, Griffin believes it will be somewhere around one-year, $17 million — a far cry from the four-year, $100 million ballpark Bautista was previously eyeing.
Without Bautista, however, the Blue Jays have several options going forward, including veteran Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner. Gardner is slated to receive $25 million through 2018, with a $2 million buyout on his $12.5 option in 2019. Previous reports indicate that the Yankees are looking for a sizable return for the 33-year-old, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests that the club has maintained their high asking price after receiving some underwhelming propositions. Whether the Blue Jays have serious interest in Gardner remains to be seen, and Griffin points out that Toronto could be in danger of losing its status as an “elite offensive team” if they can’t snag a hitter of Bautista’s caliber.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.