Blue Jays: Bautista interested in playing in Tampa Bay

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

While the Blue Jays have their team more or less sorted out for 2018, former star Jose Bautista is still looking for a home, and apparently likes Tampa Bay.

The Blue Jays have said goodbye to a couple of franchise favourites over the last two years, watching both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista go on to the next phase of their careers after playing in Toronto. For Encarnacion, we all remember well that he signed in Cleveland last offseason, after a much-criticized negotiation process. For Bautista? Well, he’s still waiting for an opportunity.

According to Marc Tompkin of the Tampa Bay Times, it sounds like “Joey Bats” has his eyes on one club in particular, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Earlier in the week it would have made total sense for the Rays and Bautista to work something out, especially after Corey Dickerson was designated for assignment, and eventually traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, since then the Rays have signed Carlos Gomez to a one year deal, seemingly filling their vacated spot in the outfield.

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That said, there could still be a spot to fill at least at DH for the Rays, and Bautista may be as good a fit as anyone, especially with the budget that the Rays are likely working with.

The fit makes some sense beyond budgetary reasons as well, and for both sides. Bautista makes his home in the Tampa area, and would obviously enjoy the proximity that would come with playing for the Rays. It would keep him in the AL East, where he’s more than familiar with things, and would also get more chances to prove that he’s got something left in the tank to the Blue Jays. Somehow, I have a feeling that has a great deal of value for the two-time MLB home run champion.

According to Tompkins’ article, the fit makes sense beyond those reasons as well.

"“Now 37, coming off a rough year in Toronto, the longtime Tampa resident is said to be in great shape, focused, able to play corner infield spots and keenly interested in playing for the Rays, presumably knowing it would be for a low salary.”"

The Rays have done some serious overhauling to their lineup this offseason, shipping out Steven Souza, Evan Longoria, and Dickerson, and also letting Logan Morrison walk in free agency. Their outfield picture now consists of Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith, Denard Span, and the aforementioned Gomez. Bautista’s fit could make some sense too, as he could spend some time at DH, and could probably split time with Smith in one of the corner outfielders. At worst, he would be a platoon upgrade for Kevin Cash‘s team.

It’s hardly a sexy option for Bautista, but it could be the best road to getting back to where he wants to be as a big leaguer. He knows that he’s not garnering interest from a contender at this stage of the offseason, so his best bet may be to try and catch on where he could get the most playing time, and re-establish his value ahead of the trade deadline. If he looks more like 35 year old Bautista instead of the 2017 version, there will be team’s interested in bringing him in for the pennant race.

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As much as I loathe the idea of watching him in another AL East lineup, I truly hope that he gets a legitimate chance to play in 2018, whether that’s in Tampa Bay or elsewhere. Here’s hoping he gets an opportunity to go out on his terms.