Blue Jays can learn prospect lessons from Bautista, Smoak

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Jun 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) scores in the first inning behind Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) as home plate umpire CB Bucknor looks on at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

RF Jose Bautista  –  Round 20 (599th), 2000

You read that right, one of the greatest Blue Jays of this generation was the 599th overall selection in 2000. The Toronto Blue Jays held the 598th pick in that 20th round, so thankfully things came full circle. In Bautista, the organization can see the lottery-ticket value that exists in any prospect, whether it be their own or one from another system.

After floating around the top-15 organizational prospect lists of the Pirates and Orioles from 2001 to 2005, Bautista was thrown into the MLB blender in 2004. This is an important time period to discuss because at 23, Bautista was near the same age that Smoak was when his career ultimately began to fizzle.

In a period of  two months across June and July, Bautista wore four different MLB uniforms. After being claimed on waivers by the Rays from the Orioles, the Kansas City Royals purchased Bautista from Tampa. Soon after, he was traded to the Mets for Justin Huber in a one-for-one deal. Huber last appeared in the Major Leagues in 2009.

Bautista would finally return to the Pirates in a  larger deal with the Mets, where he would stay until 2008. That season, Toronto acquired Bautista for a player to be named later, which turned into Robinson Diaz. Diaz also has not seen an MLB field since 2009, and is currently playing in AAA with the Brewers organization.

Justin Smoak took streets lined with gold to arrive on Toronto’s bench, while Jose Bautista was cast off by team after team before rising to superstardom. What does it all mean?

It means go for it. The eternal worry of a prospect coming back to bite a club often causes general managers like Alex Anthopoulos to take pause, but Smoak and Bautista’s stories highlight the uncontrollable and unmeasurable side of baseball.

If Anthopoulos is able to align a deal that he deems to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of “fair”, pull the trigger. While the Jays may be handing over a future star, there’s an equal chance that they are selling high on a prospect that will never truly pan out, much like the Texas Rangers once did with Justin Smoak for Cliff Lee. In 2010, Lee went 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two playoff starts, helping the Rangers to reach the World Series.

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