Red Sox don’t need Jose Bautista as much as the Blue Jays
While a report claims that free agent slugger Jose Bautista may prefer taking his talents to Boston, the Red Sox may not prefer to sign him.
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that Bautista may feel inclined to make a move to Boston, instead of staying in the city that made him famous to the baseball world: “Even after an injury-filled season, don’t expect Bautista to accept a $17.2 million qualifying offer from the Jays, according to a major league source.” Cafardo added that the impressions around the majors is that “Bautista, 36, will get multiyear offers in free agency. Boston could be a preferred destination, with Bautista having played for John Farrell and Brian Butterfield in Toronto. Bautista also loves Fenway Park.”
To support Cafardo’s last statement on the matter, Bautista’s career slash line in the cathedral of Boston is .276/.375/.597, with 24 home runs and 54 RBIs in 66 games.
However, the idea that the Red Sox are eyeing Bautista as their first choice in this winter’s free agent market is, at best, very suspect. Not that Cafardo suggested the idea, but it needs to be said that any truly objective eye would not have gazed fondly on Bautista’s latest campaign for the Blue Jays. Certainly not one that would agree to signing him for the kind of money that he was asking for before the 2016 season.
While still the face of the Blue Jays franchise, Bautista’s image took a huge hit on and off of the field.
Bautista injured his foot in June, keeping him out of the lineup for over a month. After just a few weeks later, Bautista then sprained his left knee and was back on the shelf for another few weeks.
Yet, it wasn’t like the injuries were what derailed the Bautista train this season. The 36-year-old righty never looked even mildly close to the man infamously linked to the bat flip of the 2015 postseason. After looking like Superman for Blue Jays fans across Canada and the baseball world, Bautista couldn’t break a .250 batting average in April. It actually dipped after that point. In May, his average was at .217. He improved it to .222 before the injury sidelined his momentum, if one could call it that.
After coming back from his latest injury, Bautista was struggling to keep his batting average above .253 in September, the month when the Blue Jays needed their hero the most. One man does not make a team, but Bautista’s average wasn’t helping the cause. The team almost didn’t make the postseason and had to win the American League Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles to qualify for the rest of the playoffs.
Between the wild card matchup, the A.L. Division Series against their heated rivals the Texas Rangers, and their eventual defeat to the Cleveland Indians in the A.L. Championship Series, Bautista hit just .182 with two home runs and five RBIs in 33 at-bats.
Bautista’s defensive game also took a major slide. While he posted a 1.69 range factor, the major league average was 2.12. Not that Bautista had flown around the outfield like his teammate Kevin Pillar in center field, but the veteran looked slow and unsure of himself in right field. His throwing arm wasn’t gunning down base runners anymore, either. He did not seem to be the defensive weapon of yesteryear.
Off of the field, Bautista ran into as much trouble as he did on the field. Between the anger he voiced about his contract issues with the Blue Jays and the cocky attitude displayed in media scrums before and after games, Joey Bats was projected as being whiney more than being a leader in the clubhouse. Teammates like Josh Donaldson, who busted his body all over the ballparks, showed more of that fiery zest for playing the game that Bautista was originally known for in Toronto.
And, let’s not forget the punch that Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor laid upon Bautista’s chin. Whether deserved or not, that punch metaphorically and physically took off a bit of lustre from the Bautista brand that skyrocketed after the bat flip that helped knock out Odor’s Rangers in last year’s playoffs.
Payback can hurt sometimes. In this case, it can also hurt a man’s wallet.
Do the Red Sox want to take on another huge contract for a player who seems to be on the decline? Do the Red Sox need a public relations risk by bringing Bautista and his very open personality to their fan market? He could say a ton of inspiring words when the team is winning and he could produce very successfully, if fully recovered from his injuries. Yet, will he sound like that if the team starts to lose or he gets injured again?
Besides, as Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reports, the Red Sox may prefer another Blue Jay player not named Bautista: “The Red Sox have been linked to free agent-to-be Edwin Encarnacion, who slashed .263/.357/.529/.886 with 42 homers, 34 doubles and a league-leading 127 RBIs in 160 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016.”
And, it’s not like the Red Sox need another right fielder. They have a guy who’s pretty good out there. You may have heard of him: Mookie Betts, who hit .318 with 31 homers and 113 RBIs this year, at the age of 24. That’s a lot more years than what Bautista will still have in the tank for any team who signs him.
Bautista has had a fantastic career, overall. He put the Blue Jays back on the map, when many people could only remember the Blue Jays of 1992 and 1993, their World Series years. If the Red Sox do sign Encarnacion, they would be taking a huge bat away from Toronto. The Blue Jays would need a potential bat to help fill the void. While his bat may be on the decline, Bautista’s potential for greatness in Toronto far outweighs the potential of not having him still with the team.
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The Fenway faithful don’t think of Bautista in those terms, they’ve only witnessed much of his career from afar. They don’t have the same mystique surrounding him as the Blue Jays fans do. Bautista deserves to have those Canadian fans think of him that way, as Bautista has been their hero for years. He should allow his career to be still be thought of in those terms, instead of moving to a new city with one of the toughest markets for baseball in the United States. Does Bautista really want his last remaining years potentially ridiculed and booed? He should just enjoy his last years with the fans who loved him and made him famous in the first place.