No surprise: O’s pass on Jose Bautista (plus other notes)

In the end, just as expected, the Orioles did not sign Jose Bautista. He agreed to a new deal with the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday, one that will pay him $18 million for the 2017 season. Bautista will have a mutual option for the 2018 season and a vesting option for the 2019 season, according to Yahoo Sports.

The maximum value of the deal, if it does last for three seasons, is reported to be $60 million. If Bautista has a big season in 2017, he can decline his side of the option and try to cash in again next winter. He turned 36 in October.

From 2010-15, Bautista had a remarkable six-season run. He led the majors with 227 homers, 28 more than the next closest player, Miguel Cabrera. In that span, Bautista hit .268/.390/.555, averaging 38 homers and 99 RBIs with an OPS of .945 that was fourth-best in the majors for those six seasons.

But he had a big falloff in 2016, batting .234/.366/.452 with 22 homers, 69 RBIs and an OPS of .817. Even in a down year, his OPS plus of .117 rated 17 percent above league average.

Long a batter that tormented Baltimore pitchers, last year Bautista hit just .204 with three homers and five RBIs in 13 games versus the Orioles. His career numbers are .249/.366/.495 with 28 homers, 87 RBIs and an OPS of .861 in 558 plate appearances against Baltimore pitching. That is actually his lowest OPS against another American League East team, as he has marks of .974 versus New York, .912 against Tampa Bay and .894 against Boston. He wasn’t just picking on the Orioles, even though he did gripe with them a lot.

But for at least one more season, any Bautista bat flips will come with Toronto, the team he has played for since 2008. He would look strange in another jersey and very strange in an O’s jersey, although he was a Rule 5 pick of the club in 2003. He went 3-for-11 for the 2004 Orioles, who let him go in June of that year. It would be six years before he would have his first breakout season on offense.

The Orioles were right to pass on Bautista this time. If the price to get him next year was $18 million and the loss of a first-round pick, that is simply too much. It comes down to that rather than how the fans feel him about him, despite Dan Duquette’s comments a few weeks ago calling him a villain to Baltimore fans.

What was not said is how Bautista is very likely seen about the same way by the Orioles players. They are professionals and would have welcomed him in, no doubt, had it come to that. But on a club where team chemistry has been a factor in winning since 2012, why take any chances? Especially on a player with declining offensive and defensive skills. There may be players down the road worth taking such a chance on, but Bautista wasn’t that guy right now.

Camden Yards daytime.jpgStill No. 1: Maybe from time to time some among us take for granted how great a ballpark that resides in downtown Baltimore is and how great it is we get to see games there every year. We shouldn’t.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been selected as the top stadium experience for the third consecutive year by Stadium Journey, a website and monthly magazine that rates stadium experiences in the United States and Canada. This includes more sports than just baseball.

Of Camden Yards, Stadium Journey says: “The current Oriole Park at Camden Yards, opened in 1992, is a trendsetter in Major League Baseball. Prior to its opening, the landscape of professional baseball was littered with boring, multipurpose bowl stadiums. Now nearly every team in the league has a great baseball stadium. Out are lackluster parks and in are fan friendly stadiums designed for the optimum fan experience. If Baltimore had built a standard, boring facility, baseball may not look and feel the way it does now.”

MASN at FanFest: MASN is giving fans opportunities to win exclusive prizes and meet Orioles players and on-air talent at its booth throughout Orioles FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday, Jan. 28, from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (10 a.m. for season ticket holders).

Fans will be able to participate in “Social Snapshots” photo ops with Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Zach Britton, Ryan Flaherty, former Oriole Mike Bordick, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer and MASN broadcaster Jim Hunter (appearances subject to change). This year, fans will be able to have their photo printed on-site for free, with a digital copy also sent via text for sharing on social media.

Fans who stop by the MASN booth will also be able to participate in various games and giveaway opportunities. At MASN’s exclusive claw machine game, fans can try to win suite tickets, autographed gear, Orioles souvenirs and more.

No fan will leave the MASN booth empty-handed. Fans can also enter to win signed jerseys, bats and baseballs from Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and All-Stars Jones, Davis, Britton and Darren O’Day. Other prizes include new #IBackTheBirds knit winter hats, MASN Orioles keychains, car stickers, iWallets and koozies.

“We are so excited to host thousands of the most diehard Orioles fans at the MASN booth again this year to help get them excited for the 2017 season,” said Olivia Witherite, MASN’s director of social media. “Best of all, everything at the MASN booth is free to all in attendance, including photos with their favorite players, opportunities to win signed prizes and exclusive MASN Orioles giveaway items.”

MASN is again working with the Orioles to host the Kids Press Conferences, where young Orioles fans can ask their favorite players questions. I’ll be hosting two of these press conferences and they are a real highlight of a great day.

Fans attending Orioles FanFest should follow @masnOrioles on Twitter and RSVP to the MASN Orioles Facebook event for more prize previews and the Social Snapshots schedule release.

Here is the autograph lineup for FanFest.

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