Earlier this spring, longtime Blue Jays star Jose Bautista found himself in headlines when reports emerged suggesting that the two-time AL home run champ was contemplating a comeback bid as a two-way player after not suiting up in 2019. Former teammate Marcus Stroman posted some videos of the two working out together, including video of Bautista pitching, which only fueled the story.
The 39-year-old Bautista appeared on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM this week to discuss his future in the game (Twitter link, with audio). While he isn’t ruling out anything with regard to working on the mound, Bautista also made clear that he’s not actively seeking a chance to pitch and considers himself a hitter above all else.
I’ve never stated that it was my plan or desire to make it to the big leagues as a big league pitcher. … That being said, I was working out with Stroman all offseason. He’s local to Tampa. He’s my really good friend, he needed a throwing partner, and I just got on his program to help him out and have fun with it. He since has posted a few pictures and videos of me going through the routine with him, which has led to a lot of speculation — needless to say. I’m a hitter. … I would entertain an opportunity to get back to the big leagues as a hitter. … If somebody calls me and says, ’Hey, you want to be a two-way guy?’ I’d be a fool to say no. That’s kind of the way I look at it.
Bautista went on to note that he’s not banking on anything and would be staying in shape regardless of his playing status, but it seems he’d approach any opportunity to return with an open mind. His bat dropped off notably in his final two big league seasons, when he slashed a combined .203/.323/.371 in 1085 plate appearances between the Blue Jays, Braves, Mets and Phillies. Even in the midst of that downturn, though, Bautista demonstrated a keen eye (13.9 percent walk rate) and solid power (36 home runs, .168 ISO). His 25.8 percent strikeout rate was up about 10 percent from his peak years but not egregiously high in today’s game.
Whether Bautista received any interest on minor league deals over the past couple of offseasons isn’t clear, although it stands to reason that if the league adopts a universal DH and/or expands rosters to 29-plus players for a shortened 2020 season — both have reportedly been discussed — Bautista could become a more appealing target. It’s eminently possible that we’ve seen the last of “Joey Bats” in the Majors and likely that we’ll never get to break out a “Joey Sliders” moniker in earnest, but the six-time All-Star still isn’t quite closing the door on another run.