Jul. 08, 2016
Examining Jose Bautista's Market
?Coming off of a season in which he posted a .234/.366/.452 line and 22 homers, Jose Bautista enters free agency looking for a big payday following several years of big offensive production as a Blue Jay.
Bautista has been at the heart of the Toronto lineup for the past 9 seasons, smacking 265 of his 308 career home runs in a Blue Jays uniform. Joey Bats has also been a favorite amongst many fans, and his memorable 2015 home run(and epic bat flip) in the postseason against Texas that year is among the great memories the fans will have of him. Unfortunately, during Bautista's tenure, he was not able to help the team to that elusive World Series title.
Now as he enters free agency, Bautista's time in Toronto will most likely be at an end. The Blue Jays issued Bautista a qualifying offer at the beginning of the offseason, to which unsurprisingly, he declined. He is looking for a contract that will pay him in excess of $20MM plus per year, which after his injury riddled season, now looks harder to achieve, which is also why some started to wonder whether or not he would actually accept the qualifying offer to rebuild stock for next offseason. So, who exactly would be willing to sign Bautista this offseason?
Teams who seem to be in the market for a DH/Right Fielder right now appear to be the Red Sox, Rangers, Yankees, and Orioles.
The Red Sox are currently focusing on outfielder Carlos Beltran at this time, and if they aren't able to sign him, they could either go and sign Bautista's now former teammate Edwin Encarnacion or go the route Sox GM Dave Dombrowski prefers, which is Beltran or filling the DH position from within. So I don't see the Red Sox going after him.
The Yankees could very well make for a realistic target, as they could stand to benefit from adding Bautista's bat in the lineup and he could slot in well in the DH spot. But the case here with the Yankees is the same as the Red Sox, New York is currently prioritizing Beltran and may go after Encarnacion as their fallback option. However, keep the Yankees in mind.
The Orioles are set to lose Mark Trumbo in free agency, who is a good bet to land a sizable multi-year pact on the open market, and Baltimore could replace him with Bautista, who's bat would look very nice in the small Camden Yards. Problem is, would the Orioles be willing to come close to Bautista's asking price? They could just re-sign Trumbo if they want to pay a big price for a slugger.
Which now brings us to a team that is quite familiar to Bautista, the Texas Rangers. Texas is set to lose Mitch Moreland in free agency and with Prince Fielder's sudden retirement, the Rangers are in need of a DH and a 1B. Bautista would fill the DH slot for Texas at the same time adding a big bat to the everyday lineup. But do they want to hand out another huge contract and to a player in his late 30s(not to mention he's not very popular with the fan base)?
There is another team in the American League that could benefit from adding Bautista and that is the Tampa Bay Rays. However, they don't typically spend high on players and Bautista is sure to be out of their price range.
While Jose Bautista's market appears to be limited to AL clubs, there are a few National League teams that could look into adding Bautista. In fact, the New York Mets have already checked in on potentially going for Bautista. The problem with NL clubs however, is Bautista's defensive numbers are vastly declining as he gets older and that could very well pose a problem in committing a big sum of money to a player with those deficiencies.
While unlikely at this point, it's still possible that the Blue Jays could attempt to re-sign Bautista in free agency, but with the addition of Kendrys Morales and the fact that the team has been linked to many alternatives already, it seems Bautista no longer has a place in Toronto's plans.
Jose Bautista nonetheless is a premium bat with plenty of history of putting up powerful numbers that he will score some type of multi-year deal from someone. He may not end up with a deal as big as he wants, but he should be able to cash in still, with who? We will find out in the weeks ahead.