Blue Jays reportedly considering Brett Gardner, not Bautista

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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.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.