It’s hard to believe that just seven years ago, Jose Bautista was a nobody in Major League Baseball. He was merely a utility guy – at best – for the Pirates before he was shipped off to the Blue Jays. And even before that, he bounced around several organizations as he was an expendable prospect with a good upside.
“His quick hands and ability to make adjustments particularly impressed the Pirates. He has good power and can turn on a ball while also hitting for average. Bautista has quick reflexes at third base, a strong arm and good speed. Like many youngsters, he can be made to chase some bad pitches but that problem can be corrected with time. He sometimes shows a hitch in his swing that will have to be eliminated.” – Baseball America’s scouting report from 2001.
When Bautista came to the Blue Jays in 2008, the coaching staff was finally able to get through to the young slugger on how his timing was holding him back from reaching his full potential. Bautista developed his signature leg raise in order to be loaded before the pitcher delivers a pitch. This not only gives him time to hit the ball out in front of the plate but creates a massive power-shift from his back leg to his front side.
The result is a 50-plus home run season in 2010, instant stardom, and a five-year $65 million deal with the Blue Jays.
For the last seven years, Bautista has averaged 34 home runs a season and made six All-Star teams. He has declined the last two seasons, mostly because of lower-body injuries which have zapped some of the power he once had.
After his 5-year deal was over, Bautista inked a second deal with the Blue Jays which was a 1-year $18 million deal for 2017 with a team option for $17 million in 2018. It is likely that the team will decline the option in light of Bautista’s lack of production these last two seasons.
It appears the Blue Jays have no intentions of signing Bautista after he was given a standing ovation at the end of the Blue Jays’ final home game of the season on Sunday afternoon. Bautista was substituted out of the game and greeted by a thunderous applause from the Blue Jays’ capacity crowd as a bid farewell.
This is amazing. Toronto gave Jose Bautista a final curtain call for his years playing for the Bluejays⚾️😭❤pic.twitter.com/cOVPBe6avI
— Baseball King™ (@BasebaIlKing) September 24, 2017
If Bautista can prove that he is healthy, he could become a valuable designated hitter for an American League team next season.
The team that makes the most sense would be the Houston Astros who will lose DH Carlos Beltran to free agency this offseason. Beltran is 40 years old and might consider retiring anyway, which would leave a gap in the Houston lineup.
A 37-year-old Bautista wouldn’t command the same $16 million contract the Astros gave to Beltran the last offseason. The former Blue Jays slugger may be in the range of $10-12 million, and that’s a fairly generous number for a guy who has the potential to maybe give your ball club 20 home runs and 60 RBI.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 24, 2017
There is a potential for Bautista to reunite with the Blue Jays if the team wants to move Kendrys Morales from the DH spot and plug Bautista in there. The only way that can happen is if the team can move the last two years and $23 million owed to Morales. Which isn’t very likely.
This isn’t the last time you’ll hear Bautista’s name, but you’ll likely see him in some different colors on Opening Day 2018.