A Legend (Almost Officially) Returns To The Toronto Blue Jays
After what has been a largely quiet off-season outside of the additions of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce combined with the loss of franchise icon Edwin Encarnacion, it looks as if things might be starting to trend the right way. It looks imminent that a deal will be reached with Jose Bautista, who may be the best all-time member of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise. The deal is not official and is reportedly worth close to $40 million over 2 years. The latest report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has the deal to be 1 year with a rare mutual option for a 2nd year. It will be interesting to see what it breaks down like when it is officially agreed upon.
The move is an extremely welcome sight for Blue Jays fans, who are still recovering from the sting of losing Encarnacion to the Cleveland Indians. Once a deal is reached and officially agreed, the fanbase will likely breathe a collective sigh of relief, except for the one’s who just don’t realize how valuable and good Jose Bautista is. After one injury filled season that was considered by many to be subpar, many of the casual Blue Jays fans started coming up with excuses like Bautista’s attitude and other silly things along those lines as reasons to not bring Bautista back. While there are legitimate concerns with his injuries from 2016 and defense that’s rapidly declining, there is zero reason to be anything but ecstatic for the return of Jose Bautista.
From 2010 to 2015, Bautista posted some truly good to amazing seasons:
- 2010 – 6.4 fWAR
- 2011 – 8.1
- 2012 – 2.9 (92 games)
- 2013 – 4.3
- 2014 – 6.3
- 2015 – 4.4
In 2016, Bautista played in 116 games and posted an fWAR of 1.4. In 2016, he hit 22 home runs with 69 RBI, a slashline of .234/.366/.452, and a wRC+ of 122. For a season that had two stints on the disabled list, that is still a quietly good season. It was just considered subpar by many because it was not a typical Jose Bautista season. You should always expect great things when you have Bautista on your team, even at age 36 as his eye at that plate is phenomenal. Bautista did strikeout a bit more than usual (19.9%) but walked 16.8% of the time, which was the 2nd highest total in his Blue Jays career.
There is one very interesting thing to note about Bautista’s 2016 season which is a potential indicator of adjusting his approach at the plate or his swing that has slowed down over the past 2 seasons. While Bautista’s soft contact of 21.3% was the second highest of his career (behind his unbelievable 2011 season) his hard contact rate of 41.0% was a career high. That does seem to bode well for 2017, a season in which he hopefully will be completely healthy.
Based on all of the above stats I touched upon, there is every reason to be extremely optimistic that Jose Bautista will bounce back and have a more Bautista-like season. There are many in the industry that truly believe Bautista will have a very good season and I do agree with them. Bautista is returning to a city that he knows and loves, and if he remains healthy, he should be very productive and give the Blue Jays a bang for their buck.
If you look at this impact that this has on the everyday lineup for 2017, it breaks down as follows (batting order my personal guess):
- 2B – Devon Travis
- SS – Troy Tulowitzki
- 3B – Josh Donaldson
- DH – Kendrys Morales
- RF – Jose Bautista
- C – Russell Martin
- 1B – Justin Smoak/Steve Pearce
- LF – Melvin Upton Jr.
- CF – Kevin Pillar
The addition of Bautista to that outfield and lineup makes it almost, if not more potent than the 2016 edition. The re-addition of Bautista makes up for the loss of 1/2 impact bats. The earlier additions of Morales and Peace almost completely make up for the loss of Edwin Encarnacion.
Every Toronto Blue Jays fan should be ecstatic Bautista is back. As I alluded too earlier, there are some strong causes for concern based on what we saw out of Bautista in 2016, but with that come some very strong indicators that he will have a very nice season. Be excited, this lineup is still dangerous and potent. Combine that with the starting pitching staff, and you have a team you should expect to make the Wild-Card game for a 2nd straight season.