- While it wasn’t clear just how hard the Rays and Brendan McKay would push for the recent first-rounder to make it to the majors as a two-way player, that certainly seems to be the current intention. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, though, plenty of uncertainty still remains. McKay impressed more on the hill than at the plate in his 2017 short-season debut, though as Topkin rightly notes, the real test will come in performing both functions in full-season ball. His dual developmental course has already required some attentive scheduling and — given that it is largely unprecedented — is likely to trigger some novel questions over the years to come. The piece is well worth a full read, not only for Rays fans but for anyone who’d like to learn more about this interesting experiment as it really gets underway.
The 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Whitley has not exactly flown up the ladder in the Tampa Bay system. But he still rates as one of the team’s better prospects.
Last year, the toolsy 21-year-old turned in a .249/.362/.430 slash with 13 home runs and 21 steals at the Class A level — easily his best output as a professional. It’s certainly disappointing that he’ll miss a season of development right at the point when he seemed ready to push into the upper minors.
This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series. Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.
A major roster overhaul didn’t entirely signal a new direction for the franchise, as the Rays stopped just short of a rebuild and are hoping to take an unconventional approach to competing in the AL East.
Major League Signings
Trades And Claims
- Acquired OF Denard Span, IF Christian Arroyo, LHP Matt Krook, and RHP Stephen Woods from the Giants for 3B Evan Longoria and $14.5MM
- Acquired SP Anthony Banda and two players to be named later from the Diamondbacks for outfielder Steven Souza, plus 2B Nick Solak from the Yankees (the three-team trade also saw the Yankees acquire IF Brandon Drury from the D’Backs for right-hander Taylor Widener)
- Acquired 1B C.J. Cron from the Angels for IF Luis Rengifo
- Acquired RP Daniel Hudson, IF Tristan Gray, and $1MM from the Pirates for OF Corey Dickerson
- Acquired SS Jermaine Palacios from the Twins for SP Jake Odorizzi
- Acquired RHP Curtis Taylor from the Diamondbacks for RP Brad Boxberger
- Acquired 2B Joey Wendle from the Athletics for C Jonah Heim
- Acquired IF/OF Rob Refsnyder from the Indians for cash considerations
- Acquired IF Ryan Schimpf from the Padres for IF Deion Tansel
- Acquired a player to be named later/cash considerations from the Braves for Schimpf
- Acquired $1MM in international bonus pool funds from the Mariners for LHP Anthony Misiewicz
- Claimed IF Micah Johnson off waivers from the Giants
Notable Minor League Signings
- Vidal Nuno, Curt Casali, Ryan Weber, Adam Moore, Jonny Venters, Brandon Snyder, Johnny Monell, Colton Murray, Adam Kolarek, J.D. Martin, Cody Hall, Jelfry Marte (international signing, $800K bonus)
- Longoria, Souza, Dickerson, Odorizzi, Boxberger, Alex Cobb, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Tommy Hunter, Steve Cishek, Xavier Cedeno, Dan Jennings, Chase Whitley, Peter Bourjos, Trevor Plouffe, Colby Rasmus, Taylor Guerrieri, Shawn Tolleson
For the last couple of years, the conventional wisdom surrounding the Rays has been that they wouldn’t pursue a rebuild until Chris Archer and Evan Longoria were traded. Archer is still here, as no team was willing to meet Tampa Bay’s enormous asking price for the ace, but Longoria’s days as the face of the franchise came to an end when the longtime third baseman was moved to the Giants as the centerpiece of a five-player blockbuster.
The Longoria trade more or less opened the floodgates on the Rays dealing several of their most notable players. It was known that the team was preparing to trim payroll this winter, and with a large and increasingly expensive arbitration class on the books, many of those names now find themselves in different uniforms. Gone is Jake Odorizzi, traded to the Twins for a low-level prospect in what was essentially a dump of his $6.3MM salary. Gone are 30-homer man Steven Souza and former closer Brad Boxberger to the Diamondbacks in separate trades. Gone is 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson, sent to the Pirates for a reliever in Daniel Hudson who has since been released.
Combined with a significant list of free agent departures (i.e. Alex Cobb, Tommy Hunter, Logan Morrison) and a few more arb-eligibles that were just let go for no return (Dan Jennings, Chase Whitley, Xavier Cedeno) and it makes for a pretty stark roster exodus for Tampa Bay. The fire sale would’ve been even more pronounced if the Rays had found takers for Brad Miller or Alex Colome, the latter of whom at least drew some significant trade interest.
Still, there is a glass half-full way to look at the Rays’ moves. Firstly, the team hadn’t had a winning season since 2013, so it isn’t like the Rays are breaking up a dynasty. Secondly, the moves are perhaps more palatable to Tampa fans if you look past the names of the players and instead just look at their recent production.
Longoria, for instance, is a franchise icon, but also a 32-year-old coming off his worst offensive season (96 wRC+) and owed $86MM through his age-36 season. Odorizzi was a replacement-level pitcher last season, posting the highest hard-hit ball and homer rates of his career. Dickerson’s numbers cratered badly over the last three months of 2017, while injuries limited Boxberger to just 53 2/3 innings total over the last two seasons. The Souza trade is a bit of a tougher swallow given his breakout performance and affordable remaining control, but as Rays senior VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom recently explained, the club felt it too good an offer to pass up. (Indeed, newly-acquired southpaw Anthony Banda may end up playing a significant role in Tampa’s rotation in this very season, as we’ll explore more in depth later, while Nick Solak is an interesting prospect in his own right.)
Aside from Banda, Denard Span and Christian Arroyo look to have the most potential2018 impact of any of the players acquired in these trades. Span’s inclusion was in the Longoria deal was mostly about offsetting the salaries involved. Since the Rays were unable to flip him in another deal, the veteran will open the season as the team’s first choice left fielder. Beyond Span being reinvigorated by playing in his hometown, the move from center field to left should help Span regain some defensive value, and his consistently-good numbers against righty pitching make him a productive member of a platoon.
Arroyo showed little over his first 135 plate appearances as a big leaguer, though a pair of hand injuries kept him from ever establishing any sort of a rhythm. The infielder is still just 22 years old and has been a fixture of top-100 prospect lists over the last few seasons (MLB.com still ranks Arroyo 81st on their current listing), so Arroyo still shows a lot of promise as a potential third or second baseman of the future in Tampa Bay. He could find himself at the hot corner this year should Matt Duffy run into any more injury issues or simply fail to produce.
With all of these holes opening up on the roster, the Rays made a number of low-cost trades and signings to create a number of platoon possibilities. Second base could see the Rays use Daniel Robertson against lefties and newly-acquired Joey Wendle against righties, with Arroyo or top prospect Willy Adames also potentially factoring into the keystone picture at some point. Utilityman Rob Refsnyder can also play second base , though it’s more likely that he’ll be used as a right-handed hitting complement for Span in left field.
C.J. Cron could technically share time at first base with Brad Miller, though the likelier scenario is that Cron gets the bulk of everyday at-bats while Miller is the DH, with other players rotating into the DH spot to spell Miller against left-handers. Cron was the odd man out of a crowded first base/DH picture with the Angels, paving the way for the Rays to land him at a low prospect cost and add a career 107 wRC+ player to their regular lineup.
The other big everyday addition was Carlos Gomez, signed as Souza’s replacement for right field on a one-year, $4MM contract. Gomez may have been one of several players harmed by the free agent signing lull this offseason, as a .255/.340/.462 slash line over 426 PA with the Rangers last season seemingly could’ve or should’ve earned him a larger deal (MLBTR projected Gomez for two years and $22MM). Gomez is an injury risk, though the move to right field should help his defensive numbers and he already showed some revival on the basepaths last year, with 13 steals and a +2.1 mark in Fangraphs’ Baserunning metric. With the possibility of some DH time and Mallex Smith on hand to spell Gomez against some right-handers, Tampa may have scored a bargain in a valuable regular for just $4MM. For perspective, Gomez posted 2.3 fWAR in 426 PA while Dickerson managed 2.6 fWAR but in 629 PA.
Several veteran relievers departed the Rays’ bullpen this winter, though Sergio Romo will stick around after signing a $2.5MM deal for 2018. Romo looked like a new man after joining the Rays in a midseason trade from the Dodgers, rebounding from a rough performance in L.A. and posting a 1.47 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB rate over 30 2/3 innings in a Tampa uniform. Romo will slot in as Colome’s setup man and be one of the few traditional relievers in a bullpen that will be loaded with swingmen.
With more and more teams choosing to adopt the wholesale rebuild model recently used to great success by the Astros and Cubs, the old idea of “rebuilding on the fly” has come to be seen as a half-measure at best and a fool’s errand at worst. One can’t fault the team’s braintrust (owner Stuart Sternberg, president Matt Silverman, GM Erik Neander, and Bloom) for wanting to remain competitive rather than bottom out entirely, though without even a .500 record to show from the last four seasons, the Rays are in the dreaded treading-water area of not actively tanking but also not actually contending.
Had the Rays decided earlier that a rebuild was necessary, they would’ve had much more to show from their trades of veteran talent. It could be argued that they sold high on Souza, though Tampa would’ve landed a much higher return on Odorizzi last winter before his rough 2017 season cratered his value. It was surely painful to part ways with Longoria even when they did, though trading him a year earlier, when Longoria was coming off an outstanding 2016 season, could’ve netted the Rays the type of prospect package that immediately set the table for a new contention window.
In fairness, however, it surely didn’t help the Rays that they were shopping these trade chips in a market already flooded with talent due to a stalled free agent market. Moving Dickerson for a decent return, for instance, proved to be impossible since so many other power bats were available at bargain prices. (Of course, it’s a bit odd that they took the deal they did, as they could have saved quite a bit more money by simply releasing Dickerson. Perhaps the club believes in prospect Tristan Gray.) Still, that just adds to the argument that Tampa Bay was too late rather than too early in dealing some of these players. Trading higher-priced players is a way of life for a small-market team, though failing to get much back from those trades when they do happen is a major setback.
The Rays didn’t provide much on offense last season apart from hitting home runs, and in theory a heavier usage of platoons and the addition of more athletic baserunners can help add dimensions to the lineup. Still, the power shortage is hard to ignore — as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently observed, 171 of the 228 home runs hit by Rays players in 2017 were provided by players no longer on the roster.
The likes of Cron, Gomez, or Span aren’t known for providing a lot of pop, so runs could still be hard to come by unless Kevin Kiermaier takes another step forward as a hitter or Brad Miller returns to his 2016 form. The Rays were known to be looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder to share time with Span in left field or Miller at DH, and despite several prominent bats still available on the market, the team seemed to settle for Refsnyder, who has yet to exhibit any hitting prowess as a big leaguer.
The losses of Cobb and Odorizzi left the Rays short on proven pitchers, and while the team had young arms to help pick up the slack, the Rays are planning to address the rotation in rather curious way. Inspired by the additional off-days in this year’s MLB schedule and the number of multi-inning arms available in the bullpen and upper minors, Tampa planned to deploy a four-man rotation of Archer, Jake Faria, Blake Snell, and Nathan Eovaldi. The traditional fifth spot in the rotation would be accounted for by bullpen days where several pitchers combine for one, two, or three innings apiece. Three rookies (Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos, Andrew Kittredge) were kept on the roster with intentions of filling large roles in this plan as multi-inning relief options.
It’s a bold plan to say the least — potentially quite an innovative one given the increased use of relief pitching in baseball over the last few years and the analytic advantage shown to exist by not letting batters get multiple looks at a pitcher’s arsenal. Unfortunately for the Rays, however, the cracks in the idea have already started to show due to a raft of pitching injuries afflicting the team. Two of Tampa’s top pitching prospects (Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon) are lost until 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, while Eovaldi will also start the year on the DL and is himself headed for another elbow surgery (albeit one that’s not as momentous as the two TJ procedures he has already undergone).
With Eovaldi gone, the Rays will try to get by with a three-man rotation for as long as possible. It remains to be seen if the Rays could simply elevate someone like Banda or Matt Andriese into the rotation in Eovaldi’s place, or if the team could eventually settle into a more traditional five-starter alignment as the season progresses. Regardless, Tampa Bay is putting a lot of faith in a lot of untested arms, and any further injuries will only further thin out the heavy number of pitchers necessary on the Major League and minor league rosters to properly execute such an idea. It’s an experiment that, frankly, would make more sense for a team that was in a complete rebuild and could afford to lose games while tinkering with the mechanics of how a four-man rotation would work. Facing the heavy lineups of the AL East is difficult enough for any pitching staff, let alone one in a constant state of managing innings. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold.
The Rays’ current payroll of roughly $79.5MM actually sits a bit higher than their $76MM figure at the end of last season, though they gained far more future flexibility by getting so many of the arbitration-eligibles off the books and by unloading Longoria’s contract. The fact that a payroll approaching even $80MM is a major obstacle for the Rays, however, hasn’t escaped the attention of the players’ union, as the Rays were one of four teams named in an MLBPA grievance about how those clubs were spending money received under the league’s revenue-sharing plan. While the results of the grievance remain to be seen, it doesn’t seem that the Rays’ financial situation is likely to change until the team finally gets a new ballpark.
Neander insists that tanking isn’t in the Rays’ vocabulary, and that the team’s moves will help build a bridge to the arrival of Adames, Honeywell, Arroyo, Jake Bauers, Brendan McKay, and others as the young core of a future contender. With a push for a new ballpark underway, it certainly makes added sense not to pare things back too severely. Between the veteran additions, full seasons for Kiermaier and Wilson Ramos, and the potential upside of the pitching plan, there is some reason for optimism, though quite a bit would have to go right for a run at playoff contention.
What’s your take on the Rays’ winter? (Link for app users)
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
- Among the other players set free of late was former MLB catcher Johnny Monell, who was released by the Rays, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Monell, who recently turned 32, had returned to affiliated ball after a one-year tour with Korea’s KT Wiz. He has seen only limited time in the majors but does sport an appealing .278/.350/.460 lifetime batting line at Triple-A.
- The Rays were already planning on a four-man rotation with a somewhat regular “bullpen day” before getting news of Nate Eovaldi’s need for surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that they’ll now deploy an even more radical strategy. Tampa Bay will lean on Chris Archer, Blake Snell and Jake Faria as its top three starters, and there’s no current plan to replace Eovaldi with another starter. The Rays’ early reaction, per Topkin, is to stick to their plan and see how things go; there are enough off-days early in the year that they can get by with only one required bullpen day for the first several turns through the rotation. It’s tough to imagine that they won’t eventually need to put Matt Andriese back in the rotation or turn to youngsters like Ryan Yarbrough or Yonny Chirinos, however. Tampa Bay’s depth is being tested to extreme levels, as they’ve lost both Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon to Tommy John surgery after already having traded Jake Odorizzi to the Twins.
With the decision, the Rays will remain on the hook for Hudson’s $5.5MM salary — less the $1MM that the Pirates sent with him. That means the Tampa Bay organization could have saved a fair bit more by simply cutting Dickerson loose — though they also added young infielder Tristan Gray in that exchange.
Hudson, 31, may have started out in the Rays’ plans but turned in a wild spring. He coughed up nine earned runs on eight hits and five walks over his 5 1/3 Grapefruit League innings.
That showing came on the heels of a middling 2017 season in which Hudson contributed 61 2/3 innings of 4.38 ERA ball while compiling 9.6 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9. Hudson still worked in the 95 to 96 mph range and carried a 12.1% swinging-strike rate, but obviously the Pirates were hoping for better results when they gave him a two-year guarantee.
1:02pm: Eovaldi will indeed undergo surgery, the team announced. He might require a rehab timeline of six to eight weeks, Topkin suggests on Twitter.
Eovaldi will be replaced for the time being by righty Austin Pruitt.
12:12pm: The Rays have suffered a tough blow on the eve of Opening Day, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that righty Nathan Eovaldi will be down to open the season. “Loose bodies” in Eovaldi’s elbow will likely require surgery, per the report.
A potential timeline is not yet clear at this point, though Topkin suggests that Eovaldi is still expected to be a candidate to pitch for the organization at some point in the 2018 season. A two-time Tommy John recipient, Eovaldi does not appear to be at risk of that kind of consequential procedure. But it’s obviously concerning to hear that he may well end up under the knife yet again.
Eovaldi, 28, had joined the organization on a two-year, $4MM deal that allowed him to rehab in 2017. The hope all along was that he’d bounce back in the coming season, and his anticipated presence became a key facet of the team’s plans as he progressed. Instead, he’ll now join prospects Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell — both of whom underwent TJ procedures this spring — on the shelf. The Rays traded away Jake Odorizzi earlier in the winter, further paring back the organization’s depth.
Tampa Bay has been plotting an interesting approach to their pitching staff, with intentions of using four starters and then filling the fifth starter’s role with a mix of relievers. Whether or not that’ll still be the plan remains to be seen. Clearly, though, the depth will be pressed. The three remaining starters — Chris Archer, Blake Snell, and Jake Faria — will need to be supplemented, with Matt Andriese seeming a likely candidate. That’ll still mean finding another reliever capable of giving some length, with recent trade acquisition Anthony Banda among the 40-man options that had been slated to open the year on optional assignment.
Needless to say, it’s brutal news for Eovaldi, who was on the cusp of launching his comeback. He had recorded a 14:1 K/BB ratio and allowed only six earned runs in 16 2/3 innings this spring. The six-year MLB veteran has long tantalized with his skill, including an upper-nineties heater, but has never quite fully turned the corner at the game’s highest level. In 739 career innings, Eovaldi owns a 4.21 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.
The Indians announced a series of moves this afternoon, including a claim of lefty Jack Leathersich from the Pirates. (The @RedSoxStats Twitter feed was first to report the claim earlier today.) A 40-man spot for Leathersich was opened by shipping infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder to the Rays in exchange for cash.
In other news, Cleveland announced that righty Jordan Milbrath — who was taken in the Rule 5 draft in December — was returned by the Pirates after clearing waivers. Finally, veteran infielder Adam Rosales is joining the Indians on a minors deal.
Refsnyder was out of options, and thus the Tribe at least managed to get some money back for him rather than simply losing the utilityman if exposed to waivers. Refsnyder had been battling for a backup infield job in camp, though it appears Erik Gonzalez has won that role. Cleveland looks to be carrying five outfielders, with right-handed hitters Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer (if healthy) balancing out lefty-swingers Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer, with Michael Brantley eventually joining the mix once he returns from the disabled list.
Once a well-regarded prospect in the Yankees’ system, Refsnyder has yet to produce much over parts of three MLB seasons, with just a .233/.306/.311 slash line over 320 career plate appearances. He can offer a versatile glove capable of playing second base, first base, and both corner outfield slots, so he gives Tampa Bay another multi-position bench option next to Daniel Robertson. The Rays had been looking for a right-handed outfield bat, so Refsnyder fills that need, even if he has yet to display much hitting stroke as a big leaguer.
Rosales was recently released from a minor league deal with the Phillies and it didn’t take him long to catch on elsewhere, as Cleveland will replace Refsnyder with a more experienced utility infielder. Rosales has extensive work at all four infield spots (plus the odd appearance in left field) over his 10 seasons and 638 big league games. This versatility has helped Rosales stick around in the Show despite a lack of hitting (.227/.292/.365 slash line over 1786 PA), though he did burst out for 13 homers and an .814 OPS over 248 PA with the Padres in 2016.
Pittsburgh placed Leathersich on waivers yesterday, as he may have been an expendable piece in a Pirates bullpen that already includes Steven Brault and Josh Smoker tossing from the left side, plus Kevin Siegrist in camp on a minor league deal. Leathersich joined the Bucs via a waiver claim off the Cubs’ roster last September, appearing in six games wearing the black-and-gold. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 Major League innings, and both his brief MLB stint and his much more expansive sample size of 278 1/3 minor league IP exhibit indicate a penchant for racking up big totals in both the strikeout and walks departments.
Milbrath was also waived along with Leathersich yesterday, and as per the regulations of the Rule 5 Draft, the righty had to first be offered back to his original team (Cleveland) after other teams had passed on claiming the 26-year-old. A 35th-round selection for the Tribe in the 2013 draft, Milbrath has a 4.33 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.02 K/BB rate over 405 1/3 career innings in the minors, cracking the Double-A level in each of the last two seasons.
The Rays will release left-handed reliever Dan Jennings, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. In doing so, they’ll pay one-fourth of Jennings’ $2.375MM salary (~$584K), a non-guaranteed arbitration award.
The Rays finished slightly below .500 last year (80-82), but they were in the playoff hunt in July, which led them to trade first base prospect Casey Gillaspie to the White Sox for Jennings. Despite both that decision and Jennings’ productive career to this point, he wasn’t able to earn a spot in Tampa Bay this season. The Jennings-less Rays will go forward with Jose Alvarado and Ryan Yarbrough as the only lefty relievers on their 40-man roster.
Jennings, who will turn 31 next month, debuted with Miami in 2012 and has since thrown a combined 279 2/3 innings of 2.90 ERA ball with the Marlins, White Sox and Rays. While Jennings’ strikeout and walk rates haven’t been pretty (7.31 K/9, 4.09 BB/9), he has managed to induce ground balls at a 55.2 percent clip. And since 2015, Jennings has been among the game’s most effective relievers at generating infield pop-ups, having done so at a 15.8 percent rate – good for 15th in the league. Adding to his appeal, Jennings has been roughly as effective against both right- and left-handed hitters. He has a small reverse platoon split, in fact, as lefties have posted a .690 OPS against him and righties have logged a .687 mark.
MARCH 26,11:17am: The Rays are “unlikely” to sign Bautista, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
10:28am: The Braves are no longer in the mix for Bautista, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman, who adds that it’s unclear if the Rays are still interested in him.
MARCH 25: Jose Bautista continues to discuss one-year contracts with multiple teams, ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera reports (Twitter link), with the Braves and Rays among the teams in talks with the veteran outfielder. When last we checked in on Bautista’s market, he said he was considering several Major League offers, focusing on finding a good fit for his family and playing for a winning team as his primary criteria.
Neither the Rays or Braves seem like obvious contenders in 2018, with Atlanta still in (perhaps the final stages of) a rebuild and Tampa Bay shuffling the roster this winter to save money while still hoping to remain competitive in the AL East. Both teams could be better fits from a personal standpoint, however. Bautista lives in the Tampa area, and he has expressed interest in joining the club both this offseason and last winter during his previous trip through the free agent market. Playing in Atlanta would also keep Bautista relatively close to home, plus he and Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos have a longstanding connection from their time together with the Blue Jays.
Bautista would fit the Rays’ desire to add a right-handed hitting outfielder, though Bautista’s right field defense has been below-average for the last three seasons. He could also provide a platoon partner for Brad Miller at DH or first base, and perhaps even take the odd appearance at third base in a pinch.
There isn’t such an obvious path to playing time for Bautista on the Braves’ roster, and it could be that the team’s signing of Peter Bourjos to an MLB contract earlier today could have closed the door on Bautista’s chances with Atlanta. Bourjos and Bautista offer almost entirely different skillsets, of course, though the Braves now have Bourjos, Lane Adams, and Preston Tucker in the left field mix alongside regular center fielder Ender Inciarte and right fielder Nick Markakis. Elite prospect Ronald Acuna is also expected to be promoted possibly as early as mid-April (i.e. when the Braves can be sure of gaining an extra year of control on his services), leaving even less room in the outfield. Freddie Freeman obviously has first base spoken for, plus the Braves don’t have a DH spot to offer.
It remains to be seen if Bautista has anything to offer in even a semi-regular role, given his sub-replacement level numbers in 2017. Bautista hit just .203/.308/.366 over 686 plate appearances for the Blue Jays, and between that ugly performance and his already-declining numbers in 2016, it would be rather surprising to see Bautista rebound to anything close to his old form as he enters his age-37 season. That said, given Bautista’s excellent track record prior to 2016, one can also understand why teams would consider taking an inexpensive, one-year flier to see if he has something left in the tank.