Blue Jays: Jose Bautista’s MLB options had clearly dwindled
Despite the reports that he had multiple offers this offseason, it’s clear that Jose Bautista’s options had dwindled now that he’s signed at MiLB deal in Atlanta, reportedly to play third base.
When the 2017 season ended, we knew that we had almost assuredly seen the last of Jose Bautista in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform. He was given a send off by the fans, and the front office had even sat down with him to let him know that his contract option would not be picked up. Despite being a team hero for almost 10 seasons, the era of “Joey Bats” was coming to an end for the Blue Jays.
What we didn’t really expect was that Bautista’s career would nearly be coming to an end. Sure, I knew he wouldn’t be earning anywhere near the 18 million he received from the Jays in 2017, but I had a hard time believing there wouldn’t be a team out there interested in a buy-low on one of the game’s elite sluggers of the last decade. Add in the fact that he could serve as a DH, in the outfield corners, or at either third or first base in the infield, and there was plenty of reason to believe Bautista would land on his feet, to some degree at least.
Only it didn’t happen, at least not before Opening Day. Despite the reports (mostly from Bautista’s camp), that he had several offers on the table, the 6x All-Star opened the season without a team. It’s entirely possible that he received a few offers he didn’t like, or that he wanted to wait out the market and see if a contender would be interested in his services. Instead, the market was arguably the strangest it’s ever been, with most of the notable free agents having to wait until deep into the new year for a contract.
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At that point I don’t blame him or his agency for waiting things out a bit as the season began. Every year there are a bunch of spring injuries that can thin out depth charts, and all it would have taken for Bautista to find a desirable spot was an injury and a team with a need. There have been reports that some teams don’t care for Bautista’s attitude, like the Baltimore Orioles, but don’t kid yourself into thinking they would pass on him at the right price, and with the right need. Character is important in the clubhouse, but winning fixes a lot of problems, and Bautista would have plenty of advocates for his personality, and what he could theoretically bring to the table.
Now that we’re more than halfway through April, I also can’t blame Bautista and his agent for settling for what was on the table at this point, even if it’s probably far from what they had hoped for. I say that not only because of the just one million guaranteed on his deal, but also because of where he’ll play on the diamond. Despite spending the vast majority of his career in the outfield, Bautista has reportedly agreed to terms with the Braves with the idea that he’ll line up at third base if all goes according to plan.
The position isn’t new to Bautista and I’m actually confident he can provide an upgrade there for the Braves, but it’s hard to believe that’s the best option he was presented with. We won’t know for sure if the Tampa Bay Rays had offered more money or a more desirable lineup configuration, or if anyone else did for that matter, but it’s at least a little sad that this is where things have settled.
That said, don’t be surprised if Bautista fares pretty well in Atlanta and provides a great deal of value for Alex Anthopoulos’ young team. The Braves aren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, but Bautista will have the chance to show he can still play, which could parlay into being traded to a contender at the deadline, or even into a new chance for the 2019 season.
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For what it’s worth, I hope he has a huge bounce back campaign in the National League and gets to go out on his own terms, and I sincerely hope that anyone who calls themselves a Blue Jays fan would say the same. Sure, it may be hard to see him in another uniform, but at least it’s not with the Yankees or Red Sox.