On the one hand, he’s an all-star right fielder with a Roberto Clemente-like arm and top-10 status in a handful of American League offensive categories.
On the other hand, he’s played in just 210 games over the past two seasons due to an assortment of injuries, he’ll be 33 at the start of next season, and with a high-torque swing that inflicts serious stress on his 190-pound body, with legs being challenged by Rogers Centre’s artificial turf, odds are he’ll be hurt again.
So, do you trade him?
The Toronto Blue Jays shut down Jose Bautista for the rest of the 2013 season Wednesday, with a bruised left femur. On the disabled list since Aug. 21, Bautista told media in Phoenix the team’s last-place standing in the American League East “played into the decision” to end it now, as he would require another two weeks to recuperate fully.
Bautista (.259, 28 home runs, 73 RBIs) is, or was, an integral part of general manager Alex Anthopoulos’s three-year plan to contend. This winter, the GM needs to go back to the drawing board, and a priority will be to address the starting rotation.
Due to a thin free-agent market, Anthopoulos could conceivably use Bautista as a trade chip. Anthopoulos has said he’ll consider any deal to better his club, and prior to the 2013 trading deadline, discussions regarding Bautista being shipped to the Texas rangers were said to have occurred.
When healthy, he’s a bargain, signed for $28-million (U.S.) over the next two seasons, with a team option in 2016. But a growing list of injuries – he only played 92 games in 2012 – may diminish his value on the market.
“I take a lot of pride in working hard in the off-season to come in [to spring training] in really good shape,” Bautista said. “Unfortunately, two injuries have prevented me from finishing the season strong in the last two years.”
Trading for a starting pitcher is a dicey proposition. The Jays overpaid for R.A. Dickey in a deal with the New York Mets last winter, and after acquiring Josh Johnson from the Miami Marlins, he recorded two wins and a 6.20 earned-run average.
Another factor Anthopoulos may consider is a need for culture change. In that light, Bautista could be dealt for a position player, a catcher or another outfielder, someone also able to pair up with Edwin Encarnacion in the batting order.
Bautista has been with the Blue Jays since 2008. In his five full seasons, the team has topped the .500 mark just once, 85-77 in 2010. As an all-star for four years running, the team’s record isn’t attributable to Bautista’s performance and yet, as a prominent player if not a leader in the clubhouse, Bautista wears the club’s losing ways.
When they needed him to lead the batting order out of a mass early stupor this season, he also slumped, batting .244 through May 20.
Also his responsibility: his running battle with umpires. No matter how justified (by evidence of ball-and-strike calls being made against him disproportionately), his show-up antics and barking may affect the calls on his teammates. Or, they may think that they’re hurt by the collateral damage, with equal effect.