Since joining the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008, Jose Bautista has evolved into one of the MLB’s elite power hitters. Having never hit more than 16 home runs in his career before arriving in Toronto, Bautista has hit over 25 in each of his last six seasons, twice leading the entire league. In the same six year span, he has driven in over 100 RBI’s four times, and continues to drive pitchers to the brink of exhaustion with his ability to draw walks – he led the league in walks in 2011 and 2015, and is currently leading the league in that category. He’s not too shabby in the outfield either, possessing one of the strongest throwing arms in the American League from right field.
All of this has culminated in Bautista being named as an all-star for the past six seasons, and has garnered him three Silver Slugger awards. The question now is: where will the soon-to-be free agent play in the 2017 campaign? With negotiations appearing to be at a stalemate in Toronto – Bautista was not shy in alluding to the fact that he had given the Blue Jays his contract demands and would not negotiate any “home-town” discount – other teams from around the league are taking notice of the potential opportunity to lure the 6-time all-star away. It is widely believed that Bautista is asking for at least 5 years with an attached price tag of $150 million. Here are 15 teams that could potentially make an offer to the veteran slugger this off-season.
15 Baltimore Orioles
Like the Red Sox and Yankees, the Orioles have seen firsthand what Jose Bautista can do with a baseball bat. Playing in the same division as the Blue Jays has given them ample opportunity to witness Bautista’s talent. With two of their outfielders set to become free agents next season, along with their designated hitter, Pedro Alvarez, Bautista may be the perfect replacement for the next several years. Bautista would likely propel Baltimore, an already solid team in the AL East, to the class of their division, bypassing the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays in one ‘fell swoop’. Although the two sides have had their disagreements in the past – there have been several instances where an Oriole pitcher has thrown close to Bautista, only to be taken deep thereafter by the Blue Jay – if signing the all-star were to significantly improve the ball club, the two might attempt to heal old wounds.
14 New York Mets
Losing to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series last year, exposed some holes in the Mets’ offense. The team struggles to put up big numbers in the Home Run category and, although their identity may in fact be tied more to small-ball, adding a two-time home run champion to their roster could be exactly what the Mets need to take advantage of the relatively weak NL East. With Noah Syndergaard blossoming into one of the elite pitchers in the league, the Mets’ pitching staff is one of the better rotations in the MLB also boasting Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom. With such an elite starting rotation, the Mets look ready to challenge for the World Series for the next few years at least. Bautista would complement the Mets’ offense, potentially reshaping their identity as a club, and could help them accomplish what they were so close to doing last November.
13 Seattle Mariners
Maybe more than any other team on this list, the Mariners are hungry for post-season action. They haven’t made the playoffs in 15 years! The last time that they were in the playoffs was the same year that George W. Bush was elected as president for the first time! Combine that with a lackluster outfield, and it’s quite clear that the Mariners are buyers in the free agent market, with Bautista’s name staring them right in the face. It can be presumed that Bautista would fit in very nicely behind Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano batting clean-up, which would pack a powerful punch, bound to give opposing pitchers fits. There is also an air of familiarity for Bautista with the Mariners as an old teammate, Adam Lind, is their current first basemen. For a player that likes to make it ‘rain’ home runs, Seattle’s weather would seemingly be the perfect fit.
12 Cleveland Indians
Slowly, but surely, the Indians have built themselves into a solid team. Despite this growth, they have missed the playoffs in 8 of the last 9 seasons. For a city that has experienced an emotional roller-coaster with regards to their sporting teams – Lebron James’ swift departure to his triumphant return and Johnny Manziel’s ongoing party – Cleveland may need the Indians to be their source of stability. A contributing factor to October-less Indians’ baseball is their unimpressive outfield which boasts a trio of small bats, better known for their base running, rather than their power. There are three things certain in this life: death, taxes, and Jose Bautista hitting home runs. Clearly, the Indians would benefit from the extra power and hey, who’s to say that Bautista wouldn’t look great in a Cleveland advertisement beside Lebron James and Johnny Manziel… wait, he still plays in Cleveland, right? All jokes aside, what is certain is that Bautista could add to the Indians’ growth as a franchise and greatly improve their playoff fortunes.
11 Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are relatively weak in the outfield beyond Jay Bruce. CF Billy Hamilton and LF Adam Duvall hardly pose as intimidating names for opposing pitchers. With the depth chart lacking, the team has been unable to capitalize with their superstar, Joey Votto, being in the prime of his career. Votto, who is set to turn 33 this year, has been the face of the franchise for the better part of the last decade. However, the Reds have not been able to surround Votto with the right pieces to win a championship. Missing the playoffs in each of the last three seasons has added to the growing pressure to win their first World Series title since 1990. The Reds need to make a significant splash in free agency if they hope to accomplish that goal. Bautista would create a splash worthy of several important waves – waves that may be big enough to carry Votto and the Reds all the way to the playoffs.
10 Chicago White Sox
It’s no secret that Bautista and Melky Cabrera were close friends during, and after, their time together in Toronto. During Cabrera’s free agency, Bautista was very vocal about his desire for the Blue Jays to resign the outfielder and was outspokenly disheartened when that failed to materialize. If the White Sox want to sign the Blue Jays’ slugger, they may have a secret weapon in the persuasive voice of Bautista’s friend and fellow countryman, Cabrera. The White Sox have only reached the post-season once in the past eleven years and, for a team that won the World Series in 2005, the fans and organization may be feeling impatient. The bats in Chicago’s outfield are not known for their power or for their ability to drive in RBI’s. Bautista would change the offensive make-up of the outfield without detracting from its defense. Could signing Bautista help Melky Cabrera recapture the magic he experienced in Toronto, while appeasing the growing tension felt by White Sox fans?
9 Kansas City Royals
Can you imagine an outfield of Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Jose Bautista? Scary. Now try to imagine Bautista batting behind Mike Moustakas, Cain, and Eric Hosmer. Even scarier. The Royals are well-known for their ability to manufacture runs and drive pitchers crazy by piling up singles and infield hits. Bautista would not only contribute to this style of play with his impressive OBP numbers, he would add a proven element of power to the lineup. With thin depth at the right field position, why not sign Bautista this off-season? Why not add a perennial home run hitter to the roster that won the World Series last season? If Bautista can ignore his recent past with the Royals, both in his feud(s) with pitcher Yordano Ventura and in losing to Kansas City in the ALCS last year, he may in fact wish to sign with a team who looks poised to be a serious contender for years to come.
8 St. Louis Cardinals
After failing to make it out of the NL Divisional Series last season for the first time since 2011, the Cardinals hope to make another deep playoff run this year. If that doesn’t happen, don’t be surprised if they make several big moves in the off-season. Anything less than playoff glory is a failure for this storied franchise who, like any dynastic team, wants to remain at the top of the league. Signing Jose Bautista would certainly be considered a big move, as he is set to be one of the biggest names in free agency. Another important, albeit less important, factor is the relative youth of the Cardinals – 5th youngest average age in the MLB – who would benefit from a seasoned veteran such as Bautista. Bautista would be a welcome addition to other Cardinals’ veterans Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday looking to help St. Louis return to the World Series.
7 LA Dodgers
Thank you Time Warner! This is a phrase that may be overheard if the Dodgers manage to sign Bautista in the off-season. More than any other team on this list, the Dodgers have the money that Bautista is looking for, and then some. After signing a cable deal with Time Warner Cable worth over $8 billion – yes, billion – LA has some serious cash to throw around. It wouldn’t be a hard pitch to make to ownership once they were shown a batting order of Yasiel Puig, Jose Bautista, and Adrian Gonzalez. Not to mention, they’re a hell of a team, who would definitely benefit from adding Bautista’s bat. For a team in one of the game’s biggest markets, the pressure to win a championship is mounting (their last one coming in 1988). With the fans hungry for a world series, and with more funds than Donald Trump’s political campaign, it is conceivable that LA could make a pitch to Bautista.
6 Pittsburgh Pirates
For a team that has recently experienced so much regular season success in the dog-fight that is the NL, the Pirates have had little to show for it in the playoffs. The Pirates finished second in their division in each of the last three seasons, however have bowed out in the Wild Card game twice and once in the Divisional Series. With players like Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Francisco Liriano all in the prime of their careers, now seems like a good time, maybe more than ever, for the Pirates to bring in that one piece which could propel them to late October magic. And why not sign Bautista? The Pirates drafted Bautista in 2000, where he eventually played several seasons putting up respectable numbers. Being situated in the NL Central, playing juggernauts like the Cubs and Cardinals may inhibit the Pirates’ ability to reach post-season glory. Bringing in Bautista would certainly increase their chances.
5 San Diego Padres
San Diego has one of the lowest payrolls in the MLB at just under $70 million per year, and although they have Matt Kemp in right field, Bautista has always been a versatile player showing the ability to play at first base and all over the outfield. If he were to sign with the Padres, you better believe that they would find a spot for him in the field; perhaps he could transition back to 3rd base, where he primarily played before joining the Blue Jays. Bautista would also inject several variables into a Padre’s offense that remains to be mediocre, at best. Well below the league averages for RBI’s and walks, Bautista could help significantly raise both of those numbers. He boasts high percentages of OBP and OPS, and would be a welcome addition for hitters like Matt Kemp and Will Myers who would be cushioned behind Bautista’s bat and would benefit from a higher presence on the base paths.
4 Toronto Blue Jays
Let’s be honest, there is a lot of mutual love between Toronto and Bautista. The fans love him and he seems to love the city, saying that he’d “be stupid to leave.” Bautista only became a superstar once he came to Toronto and it is the Blue Jays organization after all that developed him into the player – and man – that he is today. Aside from Joe Carter’s walk-off home run to win the 1993 World Series, Bautista’s infamous home run and bat-flip in game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against the Texas Rangers is one of the most iconic moments in franchise history. His past success in Toronto, as well as the opportunity to build on last year’s post-season run, may convince him to play out the remainder of his career in the city. Toronto would have been higher on this list, yet there are a number of reasons why it will be difficult for Jay’s management to bring him back, not the least of which is money.
3 Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are always finding ways to sign big name free agents and trade for high-profile players – Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmerman, and Ian Kinsler are a few more recent acquisitions. Let’s not forget that the Tigers traded away a solid prospect in Cameron Maybin to acquire Miguel Cabrera, only to bring Maybin back to the organization but a few years later. Whether it’s the allure of playing in the Tigers’ beautiful Comerica Park or simply because of good management, the Tigers seem to be able to convince some very good players to come to Detroit. This year, the Tigers are one of the league’s best offenses and are backed by a solid pitching staff. Adding Bautista would immediately create one of the most feared offensive lineups in the game. The Tigers may have one more trick up their sleeve this off-season by sneaking up on yet another big name FA.
2 New York Yankees
The Yankees are no longer the team in the AL East, as the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles have all drastically improved. Similar to the Red Sox, New York is not one to be intimidated by large contracts, certainly not from a player who’s been an all-star the past six seasons. The Yankees’ offense has been struggling this season, and their main concern going forward might be their aging and ailing stars. Alex Rodriguez is in the twilight of his career and several Yankee veterans continue to struggle with injuries (i.e. Mark Teixeira). Yankee Stadium might in fact be the perfect home for Bautista who would almost certainly thrive in the home run-friendly park. Signing Bautista would not only help with A-Rod’s transition into retirement, but may push the team back to the top of the AL East. Playing on a team with as much history and legend as New York could convince Bautista to sign with the pinstripes.
1 Boston Red Sox
This past off-season, the Blue Jays mid-season blockbuster acquisition, David Price, decided to sign with the Red Sox. The details of Price’s contract are similar to the length and price of what Bautista is asking, and the Red Sox are never one to shy away from hefty contracts. On the heels of David Ortiz’s comment that Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion would be a great replacement once ‘Big Papi’ retires after this season, Bautista was quoted as saying he ‘envisions’ Boston as a potential landing spot. The Green Monster in left field is a right-handed hitter’s dream and has always been a welcome sight for Bautista who hits very well in Boston. With the Red Sox set to lose Ortiz – their perennial power hitter – they will be in the market for someone to replace his bat, and there may be no better candidate than Bautista who has always had success in Fenway Park.