The Mets have signed Jose Bautista to a one-year, Major League contract, the team announced via Twitter. The veteran slugger has already been added to the Mets’ roster and is available for tonight’s game; Phillip Evans was optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding move. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reported earlier today that the two sides were progressing towards a contract, and FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that an agreement had been reached. The deal will pay Bautista a Major League minimum salary, Heyman tweets.
With Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier both on the DL, Bautista provides a right-handed bat capable of playing both third base and in the corner outfield. Bautista could also spell Adrian Gonzalez and Jay Bruce (both lefty swingers) at first base, to boot. The Mets’ media release about the signing (as noted by The Athletic’s Tim Britton) made particular mention of Bautista’s .913 OPS against southpaw pitching during his recent stint with the Braves, so it could be that New York will specifically deploy Bautista as a lefty masher.
Bautista only hit .143/.250/.343 overall during his brief time with Atlanta, with his success in 20 PA against lefties counterbalanced by a measly .308 OPS against right-handed pitchers. It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from such a small sample size, of course, though given that Bautista didn’t get a proper Spring Training (he only signed with the Braves in mid-April) and he is coming off a sub-replacement year with the Blue Jays in 2017, it certainly seems like the 37-year-old might best be suited for part-time duty at this stage in his career.
This is technically Bautista’s second stint in the Mets organization, as he was initially acquired by the team back on July 30, 2004 in a trade with the Royals for righty Justin Huber. On that very same day, however, Bautista was dealt as part of a three-player package to the Pirates for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger. One can’t really fault for the Mets for not knowing what they had at the time, as it wasn’t until 2010 that Bautista broke out as one of the game’s premier sluggers with a 54-homer season for the Blue Jays.
That was the first of six superstar-level years for Bautista in Toronto, and he was still a solidly above-average bat as recently as 2016, though he was starting to show some of the signs of the decline that led to his ruinous 2017 campaign. Since the Mets needed some right-handed hitting, though, there isn’t much risk on the team’s end in signing Bautista to the low-cost deal to see if he can recapture any of his old form, particularly if Bautista’s exposure to right-handed pitching is limited.