Blue Jays’ prediction: Bautista is a bargain in 2018

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 19: Jose Bautista
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 19: Jose Bautista /

The Blue Jays and Jose Bautista look poised for a departure this offseason, but doesn’t mean the slugger is done with baseball just yet.

Maybe I should save this thought until after the season, but I’m already thinking about 2018 as many of us are, and it’s a little weird to think about Blue Jays’ baseball without Jose Bautista. That said, it’s a near certainty that the two sides will part ways at the end of the season. The front office won’t be exercising his contract option, and it feels like everyone is ready to move on next year.

There have been many writers around the game who have wondered aloud if Bautista’s career could even be over. Just yesterday I saw it on, and I’ve read similar sentiments in many other places. I understand the rationale, it’s hard to imagine anyone being interested in an aging slugger who hit .200, but it’s far from that simple.

With Bautista you’re getting a player who has thrived in the face of controversy throughout his career, and anyone who says he can’t do something. He’ll be 37 on opening day next year, but I have a hard time believing that he’ll be forced out of the game. He won’t be earning the type of salary he had hoped to secure at the end of his career, but there will be opportunities if and when the price is right.

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He’s likely best suited as a first baseman/DH these days, but he’s been a reasonably capable outfielder this year, and he’s also appeared at third as well. That kind of versatility can be valuable, especially if he’s open to moving around the diamond for a new team. That might not be ideal at this stage of his career, but it certainly adds value to his resume.

He’s also in a position where he’ll be able to choose his next destination. I’m sure he’ll have winning in mind, but I also expect the veteran to put playing time and opportunity at the top of his wish list, even above potential salary.

As we saw this past offseason, baseball doesn’t put a premium on sluggers the way they used to, and especially when they reach this stage of their career. The 10 year Blue Jay has always been known for his on-base ability throughout his career, but unfortunate even that failed him in 2017. It’s entirely possible that a fresh start would do him a great deal of good though, so he could be a bargain of a flyer.

And call me crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up playing somewhere in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles GM David Duquette famously said that they weren’t interested last offseason because “our fanbase doesn’t like him”, but everyone likes a deal. Even if the Orioles aren’t interested, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rays brought him in at the right price, or if there was some interest from the Yankees or Red Sox.

I don’t imagine he’ll have an expansive market to choose from, but don’t expect the 5 time All-Star to be pushed out the game that easily. I fully expect him to stick it to us sometime next year in a new uniform, and there’ll be a big part of me that smiles when it happens.

Next: Looking ahead to the free agent pitching market