Since being acquired in a trade in 2008, Jose Bautista has been the heart and soul of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise for nearly a decade. He’s led the American League in home runs twice, finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times, and has been a six-time All-Star. But equally as important to being a great player; Bautista has been the most popular player as he’s led the majors in All-Star voting twice in his career. The beard, the exaggerated swing, and the bat flip have made Joey Bats an icon in Toronto and one of Canada’s greatest athletes. All that for a guy who was traded to Toronto from Pittsburgh for “a player to be named later.”
Even though Bautista is still loved by the Toronto fans; he doesn’t get quite the same respect from the Toronto front office. The team low-balled him a contract offer this past offseason before the two sides eventually settled on a one-year deal with options. As Bautista approaches his late 30s, it appears that the Blue Jays are ready to move on after this season and Bautista will hit the open market. Will he aim for one last big paycheck or will he go somewhere where he can win? What teams will show an interest in a player with declining skills at the plate and in the field? We will discuss all of that and more as we look at the top 8 teams Jose Bautista may want to play for in 2018 and 7 he won’t.
15 Will: Boston Red Sox
Isn’t Bautista’s uppercut swing just perfect for the architecture of Fenway Park? So many right handed hitters have lost home runs to the Green Monster because they are line-drive hitters, but that wouldn’t be the case with Bautista. He gets so much arc on his home runs that the Monster wouldn’t be an issue. With Mitch Moreland a free agent after this season (and underperforming); Bautista can either transition to first base or take the DH spot while Hanley Ramirez goes back to first base. Bautista also has always been very grateful to the members of the Blue Jays organization that helped turn his career around and he could reunite with one in Red Sox manager John Farrell. Farrell was Bautista’s manager in Toronto in the 2011 and 2012 seasons and that is when Bautista was at his best and had his highest MVP finish.
14 Won’t: Baltimore Orioles
Bautista made his MLB debut with the Orioles back in 2004. However, even though he hit a solid .273 for Baltimore; the team placed him on waivers after just 16 games. He then had a journeyman career all in one season as he became the first and only player ever to appear on five different MLB rosters in a single season. Even though over a dozen years have passed since, I doubt Bautista has good memories about his limited opportunity with the Orioles. Furthermore, Baltimore’s Camden Yards has been a house of horrors for Bautista throughout his career. He has just a .694 OPS while playing in that ballpark which is his lowest among all American League ballparks.
Oh, and then there’s that little thing where the Orioles GM, Dan Duquette, said that Bautista is despised by Orioles fans and is not a “working class” player in what some construed as a racially-charged evaluation on Bautista. As a result, Baltimore made no effort to sign Bautista this past offseason and don’t count on anything changing this offseason.
13 Will: Kansas City Royals
If any team needs an infusion of offense, it is the Kansas City Royals. It seems like decades ago that they won the World Series but it was just back in 2015. Last year they missed the playoffs after finishing second-to-last in the AL in OPS. While there is a concept called ‘addition by subtraction’ the Royals have seemed to invent the concept of ‘subtraction by addition’ as they added new personnel for the 2017 season but they now rank last in OPS. Both the right field position and the designated hitter position for the Royals have failed to hit the Mendoza Line this season. Bautista actually played 13 games with the Royals as a rookie in 2004 but if he doesn’t remember what it’s like to play there then he could always ask his locker neighbor, Kendrys Morales, who was a Royal in 2015 and 2016.
12 Won’t: San Diego Padres
If Bautista values winning, money, and production; then the Padres should be his 30th option among MLB teams. San Diego is a great city to live in, but Bautista may look at Japan or the Dominican Republic before signing with the Padres. They are approaching 20 years without a single postseason series victory and haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. Their 25-man payroll is, by far, the lowest in MLB as their entire team makes just $11 million more than what Bautista is making this year! Then there is Bautista’s production, or lack thereof, at Petco Park. It is arguably the least favorable MLB ballpark to hitters and Bautista’s numbers back that up. His batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage are all lower at Petco than at any other ballpark, including ones which are no longer active. The Padres certainly have a need for a player of Bautista’s caliber, but there is unlikely to be a want from Joey Bats’ side.
11 Will: Chicago White Sox
As of writing, the two players who primarily man the White Sox DH position are hitting a combined .325. Not an average of .325, but if you add up their batting averages, then you get .325 which would still be worse than their right fielder, Avisail Garcia. In other words, the Sox need some offense in the heart of their order as they rank 14th in the AL in OPS. The South Side could also use some vigor for their franchise after not making the postseason since 2008. After trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this offseason; it appears that the White Sox are in rebuilding mode but they play in MLB’s weakest division so a playoff berth in the near future is not out of the picture. Bautista going to Chicago will also reunite him with former teammate Melky Cabrera and the two can reignite their bromance from their Toronto days.
10 Won’t: New York Yankees
If Bautista was a left-handed batter or went the opposite way often, then he would be an ideal fit for the short right-field porch of Yankee Stadium. Alas, that is not the case as Bautista is strictly a pull hitter and that’s unlikely to change at the age of 37. He’s hit over 300 home runs in his career but just 6 of them have been to right field. Speaking of right field in Yankee Stadium…yea, the Pinstripes are set at that position with Aaron Judge looking like the second coming of Giancarlo Stanton. Judge isn’t going anywhere for a while but even if he does shift to left field or first base at some point; it will be for a different free agent target for the Yankees: Bryce Harper.
There have been rumors for years of Harper heading to New York once he’s a free agent in 2019. Thus, the Yankees may be offering free agents next season just one year deals in order to save up for a potential $400 million deal with Harper. Bautista may want more than a one-year deal so there really isn’t a match with the Yanks.
9 Will: Oakland Athletics
As the Godfather of Moneyball; the Oakland Athletics would be the perfect landing spot for a player of Bautista’s skills. Athletics general manager Billy Beane is a true Sabermetrician and he would proudly ignore Bautista’s declining batting average in favor of his prodigious walk rate. Despite hitting below the Mendoza Line; Bautista is on pace for over 100 walks and he’s ranked in the top 6 in walks in the American League each of the past three seasons. The only hold-up to a potential deal between the two sides is the amount of money that Joey Bats will want and that Oakland will offer.
He would have to take a huge pay-cut in order to join the small-market Athletics who consistently rank among the lowest teams in payroll. Bautista is making $18 million this season while the highest-paid Athletic makes just $7.7 million; thus, Bautista may have to take over a 50% pay-cut in order to call Oakland home.
8 Won’t: Miami Marlins
Little known fact: despite being born and raised in the Dominican Republic; Bautista is one of the few foreign players who played college baseball in the United States. He, along with future teammate Russel Martin, played at Chipola College in Florida. However, I don’t see Bautista itching to return to Florida anytime soon and specifically, the Miami Marlins. If you haven’t noticed, the Marlins are pretty set at the right field position with Giancarlo Stanton, owner of the largest contract in sports history. Bautista will be 47 years old by the time Stanton’s contract expires!
In addition, with Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, the Marlins have two other young outfielders that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Also, the role of ‘veteran outfielder’ is currently being held down by 43-year-old Ichiro who has a team option for 2018 but is drinking the ‘Tom Brady Juice’ and wants to play until he’s 50.
7 Will: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are the only National League team that Bautista should consider for one very important reason: they have the smallest outfield in the league. Bautista turns 37 later this year so he can’t move like he used to and thus, if he’s going to be playing the field every day and not DHing; then he needs a compact outfield to roam. In terms of square feet, only Yankee Stadium has a smaller right field than the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park. Likewise, if he shifts to left field that would work as well as this ballpark also has the smallest left field in the National League. As one of four active ballparks in which he has not homered in; Bautista would also be eager to add Citizens Bank Park to his hit list. As one of the youngest teams in the majors with an average batter age of 27.3; the Phillies could definitely use the veteran leadership that Bautista would provide in addition to his bat.
6 Won’t: Pittsburgh Pirates
Bautista was first drafted by the Pirates in 2000 but after languishing in the minors for 3 years, he was then selected by the Orioles in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft. After playing for 3 more teams, Bautista would eventually make his way back to Pittsburgh and outside of Toronto; Bautista’s longest MLB stint came with the Pirates from 2004-2008. They played him everywhere from center field to third base and Bautista experienced minimal success in Pittsburgh. After four years the Pirates then gave up on Bautista and traded him for as little as one could be traded for and that is the infamous “player to be named later.” Thus, the Pirates gave up on Bautista not once, but twice and there is still bad blood for his point of view.
5 Will: Toronto Blue Jays
The door certainly isn’t shut for Bautista returning to Toronto for 2018 and beyond. This past offseason he signed a one-year deal for the 2017 season but his contract has additional options for both 2018 and 2019. The Blue Jays and Bautista hold a $17 million mutual option for next season so if both sides want to continue their marriage, that’s how much it will cost Toronto. However, if either side wants out, then there is a $500,000 buyout that Bautista will pocket if either he wants to leave or the Blue Jays don’t want him back. Bautista likely won’t receive over $17 million on the open market so he will do his very best this season to give Toronto no option but to bring him back for next season.
Bautista is closing in on Carlos Delgado’s franchise record for home runs and in order to reach it he would need to stay with the Blue Jays through 2018 and maybe even beyond that.
4 Won’t: Cincinnati Reds
Long before Bautista was the face of the Blue Jays, and before he was even an MLB player; Bautista was an 18-year-old college student at Mother and Teacher Pontifical Catholic University. He would work out for MLB teams during the day and take classes at night. In 1999, after turning down an offer of $5000 to sign with the Yankees, and then an offer of $42,000 to sign with the Diamondbacks; Bautista received a six-figure offer from the Reds. They offered him $300,000 to sign with them and Bautista agreed; however, there would soon be an ownership change and the new owner reneged on its offer.
Bautista was obviously upset but things ended up working out just fine for him as he latched on with a JUCO in Florida before making it to MLB. Baseball players hold grudges like no other athletes so there’s a good chance that Bautista still has bad feelings about the Reds organization.
3 Will: Minnesota Twins
There are a couple of reasons why Bautista will consider the Twins this offseason. One is that he loves Target Field and had his only career three-home run game came in the ballpark back in 2011. Bautista has also hit 14 home runs at Target Field which is his most in any away ballpark outside of the AL East. Another reason why Bautista will consider playing in Minnesota is because it may not be that different from playing in Toronto. It’s not just the weather that is similar between the two as the Twins arguably have more Canadian fans than any U.S. team outside of the Mariners who are in close proximity to Vancouver.
We know how beloved Bautista is among Canadians and he would have lots of fan support in the Twin City of Minneapolis. With the Twins ranking in the bottom 10 in payroll; they can surely afford to bring the slugger in on a one or two year deal.
2 Won’t: Texas Rangers
This should be the most obvious place as to where Bautista has no chance of suiting up next season. It started with the Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the World in the 2015 ALDS. Joey Bats homered off Sam Dyson in the final game of the series, posed for the homer, and then had an exaggerated bat flip that launched a thousand animated gifs (including a forgettable one by Toronto’s mayor). The Rangers were incensed by this display of emotion in baseball so they plunked him the following season. Bautista then sought retaliation by making an illegal slide into second baseman Rougned Odor. What followed was one of the cleanest right jabs we’ve seen in MLB history as Odor caught Batista square in the jaw. While it would make for great theater to see Bautista coexisting with all of those Rangers that hate him; Bautista has a better shot at joining the Texas Rangers law enforcement agency before joining the Texas Rangers baseball organization.
1 Will: Houston Astros
Just like Boston’s Fenway Park; Minute Maid Park in Houston is tailor-made to Bautista’s swing. The 315 foot left field wall is the second-shortest in MLB outside of the Green Monster. Additionally, left-center field is just 362 feet away and Bautista is almost exclusively a left and left-center field home run hitter. Over 91% of his career home runs have been to either left field or left-center. Additionally, the timing of Bautista’s free agency coincides for Houston as DH Carlos Beltran is playing on a one-year deal. Beltran has previously stated that he plans to retire after the 2017 season which paves the way for Bautista to assume his role. An added benefit of joining an AL West team is that Bautista would then get 18 games per year against division-rival, the Texas Rangers, which could lead to more bat flips, more bean balls, and more on-field fights.