Blue Jays: If there’s a buyer, trade Bautista now

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 05: Jose Bautista
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 05: Jose Bautista /

With the glut of outfielders on the big league roster and in Triple A, the Blue Jays need to see what they have for next year, and need to clear some playing time in order to do that. For that reason, the team should continue to shop Jose Bautista in August.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to a franchise icon, but Blue Jays fans had to do just that with Edwin Encarnacion this past offseason. “Edwing” ended up signing with the Cleveland Indians after a highly debated offseason in Blue Jay land. Throughout much of the winter, it looked like the club may also move on from Jose Bautista too, but he ended up re-signing with a creative contract that brought him back for one year, plus some mutual options.

They haven’t made any statements regarding their current right fielder’s future, but the writing is on the wall that this will likely be his last season in Toronto. His option for next year would pay him more than 17 million, and after struggling through most of 2017 it’s hard to justify paying him that kind of money, despite how great of a career he’s had.

With that in mind, if I were in charge of the front office I would be shopping “Joey Bats” throughout August, and I believe there are beneficial reasons for both the club, and the player.

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First, the Blue Jays will need to decide what their outfield will look like next year, and there are plenty of viable candidates in house. On the big league roster there are holdovers like Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce (one year remaining on his deal), Ezequiel Carrera, and the newly acquired Nori Aoki, who has one year left of control in arbitration.

In the minor league system, we’ve seen cameos from the likes of Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith, and Dalton Pompey is still kicking around the system, though he’s battled health issues throughout 2017. In addition, the Blue Jays acquired Teoscar Hernandez in the Francisco Liriano trade last week, and he’s reportedly “major league ready”, with plenty of upside.

That’s eight outfielders who will be battling for four of five spots next year, assuming one or more don’t end up getting DFA’d (both Carrera and Aoki could be candidates for such a thing). There have also been rumblings about the Blue Jays considering a position move for Devon Travis, and the obvious spot would be the outfield as well, if they decide to go through with that idea. Add it all up, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to bring back the six time All-Star, even if it’ll sting to watch another beloved veteran leave.

For Bautista, getting a jump on the market would likely do him some good as well. As a free agent this past offseason, his market dipped well below expectations, at least partially due to an injury riddled 2016 campaign, and more so because of the glut of right-handed power bats. Baseball isn’t putting the same value on the one dimensional slugger these days, so it might be to his benefit to move on now and see if he can change the narrative about his trajectory.

He’ll be 37 this offseason, and finding another team could prove to be more difficult than we would have thought possible for Bautista. Having the opportunity to win over another franchise and fan base during a playoff run would be a big boost to his reputation, and likely give him much better chances of scoring a good contract next year. It’s hard to imagine him being out of baseball all together, but given the lack of interest this past offseason, and another down year, what will his market be like?

Next: Teoscar Hernandez is likely to start next year

A head start on that market would likely do a lot of good for Jose Bautista, and for the Blue Jays, it would give them a chance to let the young guys play in the season’s final two months. It may not be a popular decision, but if it were up to me I’d be trying to find a trade partner, even now.