Blue Jays: How low will Jose have to go?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Jose Bautista
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Jose Bautista /

As a free agent this offseason, it’s anybody’s guess where Jose Bautista will end up in 2018. Will he find a starting gig, or be forced to retire?

The chatter on the MLB hot stove has been pretty quiet since the World Series came to it’s conclusion last week, but we all know it won’t stay like that forever.

For some players though, it does, and one of those free agents who could be waiting for awhile for the phone to ring is Jose Bautista. The Blue Jays’ legend is a free agent this offseason after the Jays officially declined his 17 million dollar option for next season, and put him on the open market.

Earlier this week, put out a lineup consisting of veterans who will be looking for new contracts this offseason, but could be forced to retire. As I scrolled through the lineup, I hoped I wouldn’t see his name, but I wasn’t surprised to see Bautista slotted into right field on this fantasy team. After having your worst season in a decade, baseball can be kinda cruel that way.

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The article got me thinking, could Bautista really be forced to retire? Really, it’ll come own to what type of situation/role he’s willing to accept in 2018, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially if he’s dead set on starting full-time, or getting paid a significant amount.

For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see “Joey Bats” turn back the block and have a great campaign in 2018. He’s 37, and while he’s had a bout of injuries to deal with over the few seasons, he made it through 2017 without any time on the disabled list, so he’s not “broken” and he’s a notable fitness nut. And as we’ve seen with aging veterans in the American League before, you can extend your usefulness to near 40 at the DH position, something Bautista could be looking at for the remainder of his career.

However, it’s likely that it’ll be mostly, if not all American League teams that consider adding him this offseason, for that very reason. He’s still capable of playing in the corner outfield, and has recent enough experience at first base and third base, but he’s likely best served as a DH these days, a job that can be very difficult to secure in the modern MLB. Teams are going more and more with a committee approach at designated hitter, choosing to rest and cycle various veterans through the position. Bautista’s positional versatility helps, but it’s still not a great position to be in.

More than anything, it’ll likely come down to pride for the two time home run champ, as he could potentially be staring at a part-time role, and at the very least, is unlikely to garner any interest from a serious contender. That last fact could eat at him, especially because he got so close with the Blue Jays in the last few years, but couldn’t quite get over the  hump and reach the fall classic.

If he wants to give it another go at 37 and go out on his terms, as I suspect he will, it won’t be in the cushy “retirement contract” he had hoped to secure a few years ago. Instead, he’s likely left waiting until the new year, and evaluating where, and if there is still a place for him in the game. He’s made plenty of money, even if the Blue Jays did get a tremendous discount over the years, so this will be about proving that he’s still got something left, and that the Blue Jays made a mistake in letting him go.

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For what it’s worth, I hope he has one of his greatest seasons yet, just as long as it’s not with the Red Sox or  Yankees.