Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn’t respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but it’s possible the team is waiting to resolve Bautista’s 2011 contract before pursuing an extension.
Bautista’s salary for this year may not be determined until a February salary arbitration hearing. The 30-year-old asked for $10.5 million; the team countered at $7.6 million.
Per team policy, the Blue Jays committed to the hearing as soon as the salary figures were exchanged last week. Under that arrangement, the only way to avoid a hearing would be to agree on a long-term extension.
Bautista’s case is particularly intriguing, for two reasons: His 2010 performance far surpassed his prior track record, and he is only one year away from what could be a big free-agent payday.
Bautista batted .260 last year with a major-league-leading 54 home runs and 124 RBIs. His previous career highs were 16 home runs and 63 RBIs.
Bautista’s long-term position could be another factor in the talks. He excelled defensively in right field last year but also spent time at third base.
“As the (hearing) date gets closer, we’ll see what direction we’re going to go,” Stringfellow said. “It takes two sides to engage in talks.
“Jose is content going either way. He loves playing for the Blue Jays. He also understands that he’s a free agent at the end of this current season. Alex and the people in Toronto have treated him so well.”
Stringfellow was asked if he thought Friday’s trade of Vernon Wells would impact Bautista’s future in Toronto. The Los Angeles Angels assumed all of the remaining $86 million on Wells’ contract. In theory, that should help the Blue Jays afford a long-term contract for Bautista.
“I had no idea they were trying to move Wells — or that they were even thinking about moving him,” Stringfellow said. “Whether that means anything for Jose, I don’t know. But they have flexibility that they didn’t have before.”