After a DL stint, the Toronto Blue Jays are set to welcome back Jose Bautista. The timing couldn’t be better for both parties
If the Toronto Blue Jays are going to take over the AL East this season, they are going to need help from everyone, including Jose Bautista. They’ve been without him for a total of 46 games this season. The latest trip to the DL came after twisting his knee on a Rogers Centre turf special.
At the time, it appeared as though he merely stumbled, but the stumble resulted in a 15 day absence for the impending free agent. The timing of this could not have been worse for Bautista. He’s heading into a free agent period, the likes of which Toronto has not seen in a long time. The long time Blue Jay has entrenched himself into the hearts of fans across the nation. He’s mashed and bat flipped his way into many of us screaming for the club to pay him whatever he wants to stay in Toronto.
That was until we’d heard rumblings that the 6 time All Star was seeking $150M over 5 yrs. Then we were not so crazy about the idea. Our second guessing turned into straight up doubt once the season was under way. The 2015 ALDS hero was underperforming, at least when compared to the expectation we (rightly or wrongly) heaped on him. Through 80 games, Bautista has collected 15 HR, 48 RBI, a .222 average and a 0.7 WAR. In right field, his defensive runs saved (DRS) is at an all time low: -9. All of thi sled many to wonder if he would see anything close to the asking price previously stated. It should be noted that he never actually stated those terms.
Bautsita suffered through an extended period on the DL to deal with ‘turf toe’ as well. If you combine his atypical performance and his trips to the DL, you have a perfect storm of free agency disappointment brewing. All of this is happening at the wrong time for Jose Bautista.
For his own future, Bautista needs to jump back into the swing (!) of things and demonstrate that his bat is worth what he’ll be seeking. Baseball is very quick to point out that performances are not worth the asking price. It can be very humbling for a guy who is a HR champ and has struck fear in pitchers for years. He needs to get back into the lineup and prove that he is still that guy. While a couple of months of regression will not hurt his case entirely, a hot end to the season certainly will add dollars and, possibly, a year or two to his deal. If Bautista is going to test fee agency, he will have to rely on current performance more than past achievements. Other teams won’t pay him for 54 HR in 2010 or the Bat Flip in 2015.
The Blue Jays also need Bautista to regain his form. Despite his numbers this season, when he is out of the lineup, the club is worse off. Even if he is not hitting bombs, he is working counts and taking his walks. His 16.3% rate is right on par with last season, which is better than the previous few seasons and the most since 2011’s mark of 20.2%.
The Blue Jays plan to use Joey Bats at DH for a majority of the time (That’s the plan right now. We’ll see if they stick with it), which has ripple effects on the rest of the roster. If you heard Episode 87 of the Jays Nest Podcast, you heard our discussion on the impact of this decision. Essentially, with Bautista DHing, the outfield becomes more defensively sound with Kevin Pillar, Melvin Upton Jr.and Michael Saunders. As well, Edwin Encarnacion slides into the first base job, which means that Justin Smoak and his strike outs take a seat on the bench. All of this creates a much more sound Blue Jays lineup. So, they need Bautista back too.
Whether this is the last few weeks we see of Jose Bautista in a Blue Jays’ uniform remains to be seen. Let’s not get caught up in that just yet. Instead, let’s focus on the fact that, for the next 5 weeks, we get to watch the Toronto Blue Jays fight for an AL East title. We get to watch Jose Bautista return to the lineup and help his team and his free agent. For himself, and the club, the timing couldn’t be better.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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