You're forgiven if you overlooked Jose Bautista coming into the season, too. He had never had a slugging percentage above .420 in any one year and at 29, he wasn't a likely candidate to gain much power. But Bautista, who hit ten home runs last September, finds himself all over the leaderboard a quarter of the way into the season. He started the day third in the league in home runs and fifth in extra base hits, so we can't ignore him any longer.
It's too early to write the Blue Jays off, however. They won again today and they've been among baseball's best teams in May. But should GM Alex Anthopoulos decide to sell, he'll have a versatile and powerful player to market. Does that make Bautista the new Ben Zobrist? Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says no - or at least not yet. Bautista has only hit this well for two and a half months, so he has some work to do.
Comparisons aside, there's no question that Bautsita would appeal to major league teams if the Blue Jays fall out of contention this summer. Whether or not advanced metrics say Bautista's a good defender (they don't) the Blue Jays obviously consider him a major league defender at third and in the outfield. Whether or not you believe in his power, he has out-homered Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Howard since last September. Plus, Bautista's under team control through 2011.
If he becomes available, the Yankees could have interest, given the injuries to Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson; the Twins could decide they're more comfortable using Nick Punto as a utility player; the Mariners could spell Jose Lopez at third and use Bautista at DH and in right; the powerless A's could inquire; the Nationals could put Bautista in right; there's no logical position for him in Houston, but the Astros could use the power; the Padres could consider Bautista if they become buyers. In short, many teams could have interest in Bautista, but for now his bat is keeping the Jays in contention.