Jose Bautista wants to play his entire career for the Toronto Blue Jays, and the team intends to explore an extension that could make that happen once both sides arrive in spring training later this month, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Bautista, 35, told the Canadian Press on Thursday that he would consider it "an honor" to finish his career with the Blue Jays.
"Fans-wise, city-wise, having the country behind us and every other aspect of being a Toronto Blue Jay player is something that I love," Bautista said. "Now, hopefully, that matches up with the new front office desire to win now, kind of like myself."
Sources told ESPN that the Blue Jays and Bautista's agent, Jay Alou, plan to begin negotiations about a potential extension during spring training. The sources also said the team expects to hold similar talks with the representatives for DH/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
Both players can become free agents after this season.
New general manager Ross Atkins said the team would "love to have both of them" remain Blue Jays beyond this season.
"And the more we've learned about them, that has only increased our interest in keeping them here," Atkins said. "The challenge lies in placing a value on that and then agreeing on a contract."
Bautista has emerged as one of the faces of the Blue Jays' franchise since 2008, when the team acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates in what appeared at the time to be a minor waiver deal.
Over the last six seasons, however, he has led the major leagues with 227 home runs and ranks second only to Miguel Cabrera in slugging (.555) and OPS (.945).
Atkins confirmed that he and new team president Mark Shapiro, who both came to Toronto from the Cleveland Indians in the last few months, met recently with both players. However, those conversations were more about introductions than about contract talk.
"They felt like they had the need to get to know us a little bit, and I feel the same way," Bautista told the Canadian Press. "They're new to the team. I don't really know them personally or their style of management per se, other than what I've seen or heard in the press from their previous jobs, which was to be conservative because you're in a small-market type of thing."
Because Bautista would hit free agency at age 36 -- Encarnacion would be 35 -- it seems unlikely that the Blue Jays would be comfortable agreeing to long extensions that would take the players into their late 30s or early 40s. However, the club faces enormous public pressure to retain Bautista following a tumultuous offseason marked by the arrival of Shapiro and the subsequent resignation of popular GM -- and Canada native -- Alex Anthopoulos.
Bautista told the Canadian Press that he's going to take this journey step by step.
"When spring training comes, I'll worry about spring training," Bautista said. "When the season comes, I'll worry about that. And if I become a free agent, I'll worry about it when I [become] a free agent. I don't think that far ahead."