Neither the Yankees nor the Giants are “seriously pursuing” veteran slugger Jose Bautista, Jon Morosi of MLB Network writes. Morosi goes on to discuss the remaining market for the 36-year-old, who will require draft compensation from a signing team since he turned down a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays.
Both New York and San Francisco seemed at least to be decent hypothetical matches, particularly the latter. All said, the news doesn’t improve the outlook for Bautista. As Morosi notes, organizations such as the White Sox and Phillies could have a theoretical need in the corner outfield, but will probably be loath to part with a draft choice and spend big on an aging player at this stage of their respective rebuilding efforts.
Several AL East teams make some sense, at least on paper, beyond the Yankees and incumbent Jays. But the Orioles have shot down any such notions, citing Bautista’s poor reputation among the Baltimore faithful. (The same, presumably, is true of the Rangers.) We have also heard some suggestion that the Rays could have some interest in Bautista — or, at least, a theoretical player of his ilk — but that would likely be more as an opportunistic landing spot than as a dedicated pursuit. The Red Sox appear to have been of interest to Bautista, but it seems that the organization doesn’t feel there’s a fit (in part, at least, due to salary considerations).
I’d add, speculatively, that there are a few other teams that could conceivably enter the picture. The Mariners could stand to add a bat and have some positional flexibility with which to work, though they do have several right-handed-hitting pieces in the corner outfield/first base/DH areas already, it’s possible to imagine a fit. It’s a similar situation for the Mets, who have been rumored to have at least some interest in the past. If you squint hard enough, or imagine a trade to open space, it’s still possible to see a match with the Astros despite the addition of Carlos Beltran. And the Nationals did surprisingly pursue Bautista at the 2016 trade deadline, though the acquisition of Adam Eaton makes a move on him now a tough proposition. Most intriguingly, perhaps, the Rockies could stand to plug Bautista’s bat in at first base, if they were to move an outfield piece and shift the just-inked Ian Desmond to the grass.
Given the overall market setting, Morosi argues that the most sensible outcome at this point is for Bautista to end up back with the Blue Jays. For Toronto, there’s still an evident need to add offense, particularly in the outfield. In a multi-year scenario, at least, Bautista could slide in at first base at some point down the line. While the team would stand to sacrifice the chance to recoup a compensatory draft pick, adding Bautista wouldn’t hurt as much in the draft department as it would many other organizations. (Under the new CBA, no organization will be able to make Bautista a qualifying offer in the future.) Plus, there’s obviously a special connection between this particular team and player.
It’s worth emphasizing that the level of interest on the Jays’ side remains somewhat unclear. The club is said to be in touch with Bautista’s representatives, but there’s little doubt that Toronto will prefer to minimize its commitment in any arrangement. While Bautista was still a productive player last year, and maintained his excellent plate discipline, he wasn’t quite himself in the power department (22 home runs, .452 slugging percentage). With the obvious issue of age and declining glovework in the outfield — not to mention the fact that the Jays already locked into a three-year commitment at DH with Kendrys Morales — there’s good reason for the organization to be wary of a lengthy entanglement.