After the Toronto Blue Jays declined Jose Bautista’s 2018 option, he’s looking for a job, but is there a market for his services?
The Toronto Blue Jays declined the 2018 option on Jose Bautista‘s contract. It was a move that surprised no one. Paying $17M in 2018 and risking another $20M in 2019 was not the kind of chance Toronto was willing to take. Given his 2017 season, it would have been a shock if they had picked up his option. Instead, the club sent the now 37 year old into free agency at the worst possible time for him.
Bautista is coming off a year where he slashed .203/.308/.366 with a wRC+ of just 80 and for the first time since 2006 (-1.1), he put up negative fWAR (-0.5). If there is any silver lining to his season, it is that he showed an improved presence in right field. But, no one was paying attention to his better defense. It wasn’t good enough to distract from what we were witnessing at the plate. We won’t rehash that here.
What is more useful is trying to find a market for the services of Jose Bautista. At first glance, this might appear rather tough. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and he regressed (an understatement) last year. However, people around baseball will certainly remember the hitter he used to be. The challenge for agent, Jay Alou, in the context of a sport that has become even more of a ‘what have you done lately’ business is to convince teams that his client is capable of showing signs that his abilities haven’t disappeared. And, to his credit, he’s trying:
Jose Bautista's agent Jay Alou has been trying to spark some interest in his client, feeling the slugger has found the issue with his swing last season.
— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) December 13, 2017
It would be great if we could hear what the issue was and how he has fixed it, but we’re not the ones it’ll be explained to. Alou will undoubtedly look to explain the adjustments to potential interested teams. But, his sales pitch won’t end there. Not only will he need to persuade GMs that Bautista is not that 2017 hitter, he’ll also need to show that his client brings more to the table. He’ll have to convince teams that Bautista has usefulness.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 15, 2017
For the purposes of this little venture, let’s assume Alou is 100% accurate and Bautista can still be productive at the plate and can play first base, third base, DH and maybe even some outfield. What does the market hold for a guy like that? We should preface this with the obvious fact that any player is useful to a team for the right price. So with that in mind, we continue.
With a familiar face in Atlanta, Bautista could benefit from someone who knows him well. Alex Anthopoulos could look to find a one year solution to man third base or an outfield spot. The problem with a National League team looking at Bautista is that there is no DH, so they will have to believe in his health – his training program, etc have never been questioned as anything but the best – and defensive abilities to give him a spot in the field. That might be asking for a lot of faith, which mightn’t cost a lot of money.
Tampa Bay Rays
Signing a guy who has a history, but is questionable might be right up the Rays alley. That is particularly true if he comes at a discounted rate. The Rays are seemingly always trying to get more out of less. Bautista could provide that. He could also play third, where long time stud, Evan Longoria used to play, as well as first. It might be unlikely to see Bautista hitting the catwalks in Tropicana Field on a regular basis, since they seem OK with taking a step back in 2018. Does that mean they won’t take a chance on Bautista? No. He could provide veteran leadership to a team looking to test youngsters. And, if Alou is right, he might even help them offensively.
If the Twins want to find a potential DH, Bautista could be their guy. He wouldn’t cost a lot of money, so wouldn’t interfere with their rumoured pursuit of guys like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. The Twins say they are looking to use the DH spot to rotate guys, which Bautista would not interfere with that idea. In fact, depending on what happens with Miguel Sano (after getting a rod in his shin and after allegations of assault), they could need a potentially big bat at third base. Oh, and we can’t forget how Bautista has absolutely mashed in Minny.
New York Mets
The Mets have question marks at third (David Wright) and first (Dominic Smith) and Bautista could be a nice insurance policy. Again, this is assuming that he lives up to everything his agent is trying to sell. Of course, if Bautista could pitch, he would be a shoe in to join the Mets. Joking (?) aside, they could use a multi-purpose player with some pop.
These guys are almost like the Rays in their
need desire to find talent for cheap. They could look for a right handed outfield bat and Bautista could fill that need. As well, the A’s traded Ryon Healy, so there very well could be some infield playing time available. Oakland is not exactly a preferred destination for most free agents, but if he can rebuild his value there (in an expansive outfield), Bautista might consider it, especially if there isn’t much of market for his services.
San Diego Padres
With a big league roster that in need of impact, The Padres could look to Bautista. Granted, they have their eye on Eric Hosmer to play first base, but they could find a cheaper option in a former home run king. San Diego has lots of talent beneath the surface and could also use a one year bridge.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants could have used a third baseman until they landed Longoria from Tamp Bay. But, they have been looking for upgrades all winter thus far and have struck out on the likes of Giancarlo Stanton. Bautista could offer them versatility and, if he can live up to his former self, a right handed impact bat for the middle of their order.
Toronto Blue Jays
That’s right. I said it. Right now, the outfield situation in Toronto is scary. They are looking at Ezequiel Carrera, Steve Pearce and some kind of mixture of Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Dalton Pompey or Dwight Smith Jr to fill in the spots around Kevin Pillar. If Alou is right, and Bautista has fixed his issues, a return to Toronto could do both parties some good.
The real question with regards to Jose Bautista’s 2018 employer has to do with how much they will be paying him. The Blue Jays could pay him much less and be comfortable with him patrolling right field. As stated previously, the asking price will dictate just how ‘useful’ a player is to teams. In the case of Bautista, there is a market for his services, especially if he can live up to the advertising his agent is doing.
Feel free to weigh in below. Where do you think Bautista will land in 2018?
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.