Blue Jays: Might be time to offer Jose Bautista a one day contract

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 07: Jose Bautista #11 of the New York Mets waits to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during their game at Citi Field on July 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 07: Jose Bautista #11 of the New York Mets waits to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during their game at Citi Field on July 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

With Spring Training set to begin and over 100 free agents still waiting for jobs, I hope the Blue Jays consider signing Jose Bautista to a one day contract to allow him to retire in Toronto.

For weeks now I’ve opened my Twitter feed every time I’ve woken up from a night’s sleep, or even a nap, and assumed I’d eventually see news of a Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado signing. It still hasn’t happened, and they’re far from alone in waiting for a new contract on the open market.

With over 100 free agents still searching for their next job, things aren’t looking good for a lot of the fringe MLB players. We’ve started to see the evidence over the last few days, as potentially useful veterans are starting to give in and even sign MiLB deals in hopes of earning a job during Spring Training.

One of those veterans still waiting for a 2019 gig is Jose Bautista, who of course starred in Toronto from 2008-2017 and twice lead all of baseball in home runs while in a Blue Jay uniform. He spent last season bouncing around the league and making stops in Atlanta, New York (with the Mets), and finally with the Phillies, playing in 122 games in total and collecting 399 plate appearances.

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He’s not the feared slugger that he was in his prime, but he still proved to be useful at times last year. He ended up slashing .203/.348/.378, with the on-base tool as his most obvious asset at this stage. He still sees the ball reasonably well, and it all added up to 1.4 bWAR, which wasn’t bad considering he was playing on a MiLB contract last year as well.

Looking ahead though, what are the chances that Bautista is going to get another roster spot in 2019? Don’t get me wrong, I’m still rooting to see one of the best Blue Jays of all-time in the league next year, but all good things do come to an end, and for Bautista it might be time to admit that it’s been a good run. I would assume that he’ll pursue an opportunity if one should come up, but with so many potentially useful veterans waiting for jobs, and guys agreeing to contracts for a fraction of what they should be worth on the open market, it could be tough for Bautista to get a look.

In the event that he doesn’t get an invite to Spring Training somewhere else, I hope the Blue Jays have considered offering him an opportunity finish things up as a Blue Jay. While it might be fun for a while to see him re-join the team, the front office is clearly moving hard into a rebuild phase and new manager Charlie Montoyo is going to have a hard time finding at bats for everyone as it is. More realistically, I’m talking about a one day contract for “Joey Bats”, which would allow him to finish up where he arguably should have anyway, and go out in the same way that Roy Halladay did when his career as a Phillie was over.

Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro don’t have the same type of relationship with Bautista that Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston would, but that should hardly matter at all in this case. It would be purely a PR stunt, a show of class for a player who contributed a lot to the franchise and the city during his tenure, and honestly, a welcome distraction. There are reasons to be excited about watching the Blue Jays this season, but if I’m being totally honest I also recognize that it might very well be a long year ahead.

Signing Bautista to a one day contract won’t change that of course, but it’s an easy enough gesture to offer the former Blue Jay great, and one that will make the fans happy as they bathe in nostalgia like only we can. It may be also be a nice symbolic gesture of passing the torch from the last generation to the new one, as nothing about last year felt like a graceful transition.

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Maybe Bautista won’t be ready to hang up the cleats just yet and this idea may have to wait until later in the year, or even after another season or two. When he’s ready though, I hope the Blue Jays are ready to welcome him home one last time.