The Rays have been linked to Jose Bautista both last winter and even earlier this offseason, though MLB.com’s Bill Chastain hasn’t heard about any interest from the team’s end. Bautista makes some sense as a right-handed platoon partner with lefty-swingers Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson at first base or DH, and Bautista also lives in the Tampa area. He would be a low-cost signing for the Rays in the wake of his dreadful 2017 season, though that same lackluster performance could be the reason the Rays are apparently looking elsewhere rather than hope Bautista can bounce back at age 37. On the other hand, Chastain notes that the Rays have made other veteran additions in the past without any advance warning, so it’s probably too early to definitively rule out a signing.
Here are some more items about veteran names still on the market…
- Jay Bruce or Neil Walker are “highly unlikely” to sign with the Mets, Newsday’s Marc Carig said in an appearance on The Orange & Blue Thing show (Facebook link, Carig joins around the 21:00 mark). The possibility can’t be entirely ruled out, however, given the nature of this “weird offseason” that has seen so many top free agents remain available as we approach the start of January. Carig’s segment is well worth a full listen, as he also discusses such topics as the communication issues that has plagued the Mets’ organization and (along those same lines) his recent commentary criticizing team ownership for its lack of transparency.
- There isn’t much action in Alcides Escobar’s market, leading MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan to write that the Royals could consider re-signing the shortstop as veteran depth behind Raul Mondesi. The Padres were the only team known to be interested in Escobar this offseason, and they’re now seemingly out of the shortstop market after acquiring Freddy Galvis. It would’ve been a tall order for Escobar to find a starting gig anywhere given his lack of offensive production, and if he did go anywhere as a backup, a familiar locale like Kansas City makes as much sense as any other destination.
- Also from Flanagan’s mailbag piece, the Royals have some uncertainty whether or not Luke Hochevar will continue his career. Hochevar missed all of 2017 after recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and he also missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. Royals GM Dayton Moore said during the Winter Meetings that he hadn’t recently spoken to Hochevar about a possible reunion, though Flanagan wrote that the Royals would have interest in bringing him back. Hochevar just turned 34 last September and posted excellent numbers as a reliever in his last three active seasons.
- There is very little chance of Chase Utley returning to the Phillies, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. Whether Utley returns for a 16th MLB season or retires, Zolecki figures Utley will remain on the west coast, either staying at home or playing for the Dodgers. Zolecki also refutes a report that Utley was a candidate to become the Phillies’ bench coach, noting that Utley wasn’t even under consideration for the job before the team eventually hired Rob Thomson.