So far this offseason, two teams have been serious about signing Jose Bautista. The Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, he’s been connected to the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies, but nothing too serious.
Bautista is hitting free agency at the wrong time. Not just the questions around the new CBA. He’s 36, coming off a down year which means a decline is probably coming, and he’ll cost the team that signs him a draft pick. He declined a qualifying offer worth $17.2 million from the Blue Jays, but that remains the best offer, with Toronto still putting it on the table. The Orioles looked interested, but seem to fear the reaction from their fan base, although these fans didn’t really show up to games late last season.
Beyond these two offers, things don’t look good for Bautista, who’ll probably end up going back to Toronto. The Yankees and Giants have minor interest in him, but he has very little defensive value, which means 1st base, DH (for the Yankees and the other AL teams) or just part of a platoon in the outfield. However, giving up a draft pick for that and the salary Bautista is expecting? Just doesn’t seem very logical.
The Rays have been interested in him, and so have the Boston Red Sox. But Tampa will only take Bautista on for a very low pay which he isn’t interested in. The Red Sox don’t seem to find a financial fit for Bautista, who is expecting to be courted like Edwin Encarnacion is, but simply isn’t viewed as that good of a player, especially after his production dropped last season. After six consecutive All-Star seasons, averaging just under 46 home runs with a .390 OBP and a .555 slugging, Bautista batted just .234 last season for 22 home runs, with his SLG dropping to .452, his lowest since 2009.
The Seattle Mariners always love someone who can hit the ball deep but they’re filled with right handed hitters in the outfield. The Rockies seem to be looking to make an outfield change (trade Carlos Gonzalez maybe?), but they also have Ian Desmond. Maybe Bautista gets the first base role and Desmond, who showed he can play some good defense last season, moves to the outfield.
The bottom line: There’s interest in Bautista, but not on his terms. The Blue Jays don’t want him beyond one season, especially after giving Kendrys Morales three years. He might bounce back from his bad year power-wise, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of trust around major league baseball in his recuperative powers.