When it comes to a reunion between Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays, it is not safe to assume it is inevitable.
At this point, the Toronto Blue Jays have few options to fill their outfield vacancies. To be more accurate, they have few options to fill the outfield holes beyond the current “in house” options. That means that, as things currently stand, the club will have to figure out how to fill out the lineup card using a mixture of Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton Jr. and/or Dalton Pompey. Obviously, this is less than ideal.
As it turns out, Jose Bautista appears to have even fewer options. He remains on the market and appears to have seen his list of suitors shrinking more and more. Whether it is due to his asking price, his age, his ‘down year’, or his perceived “attitude problem”, or a combination of the above, he is still waiting for a deal. We’ve heard that he could be willing to take a one year deal at this point.
All of this leads many people to assume that a return to Toronto is the most likely scenario for Bautista. Even Dave Cameron of Fangraphs thinks this will play out. In fact, he goes as far as to say that it will result in the Blue Jays being better off than people think. The crux of Cameron’s argument is that Bautista offers considerable value to a team looking for outfield help. In particular, he offers tremendous value to the Blue Jays. In 2016, which was a disappointing season for the 36 yr old put up 122 wRC+ and 1.2 WAR.
It was a down year, for sure. But, he is projected to see a nearly 3 win season next year. And, that is based on what can be conservative projections. It certainly is well within the realm of possibility that he shoots past that. Combine a bounceback season from Bautista with Kendrys Morales moving into the AL East and the Blue Jays look to have a pretty potent lineup for less than what they would have paid to keep Edwin Encarnacion. There might even be money left over to, you know, address the bullpen.
So, Cameron thinks a reunion would put the Blue Jays in good shape to compete next season. And, the logic is hard to argue, as it is when Dave Cameron writes. But, his line of thinking is also based on making assumptions that are not necessarily givens.
Firstly, the draft pick compensation with which the club harnessed Bautista has remained quite the yoke as he proceeds through the winter. It has weighed him down quite a bit. In the past, we’ve seen players wait out the draft pick period in order to secure a deal. That would mean that they waited around until the draft to sign with a new team when no penalty is associated with them. This is not to say that Bautista will (or should) do that, but it would open up more opportunities for potential suitors. It is a dangerous game to play as teams will certainly look to fill their rosters before then. As well, for Bautista, if he is going to sign a one year deal to build his value, he would benefit from doing so before the season starts, so he has a full season to perform. This approach seems highly unlikely, really.
The more important assumption is that the Blue Jays would be OK with losing out on that draft pick they would get should Bautista sign elsewhere. That draft pick presents significant value as it is the difference between them having 2 and 3 draft picks before the second round even starts. That 3rd pick could be very tempting. Assuming Bautista signs with Toronto assumes the club is willing to give up that extra pick. That may not necessarily be a given. Rebuilding the system after the Great Purge of 2015 could put greater emphasis on receiving that compensation. They may wish to hold onto it rather tightly.
All of this also assumes that another team doesn’t come in and swoop him up at the last possible minute. While it doesn’t look like there will be anyone calling right now, there is still plenty of offseason left. It just takes one team: a team willing to take the draft pick hit, of course. But, it would take just one team to see the value that Bautista can still bring and sign him to that one year deal, which he’d be willing to take in order to hit free agency next winter with no draft pick attached and having put up Bautista-like numbers.
Having Jose Bautista back in the Blue Jays lineup seems a logical conclusion at this point in the winter. It would certainly help the club look more competitive, even after losing Encarnacion. It would raise the talent floor and solve a couple of issues for them. And, it would reunite a hero with his fan base. It would be great for fans. But, as likely as it seems, and as awesome as it would be, it is not as easy as all that. If you’re one of those waiting for his return, don’t get your hopes up just yet. Assuming a reunion is not as automatic as a Bautista no doubter to left field.
*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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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.