Jose Bautista, who suffered a turf-toe injury in June, returned to the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup on Monday. Thus far his stats certainly have not been all that encouraging since returning to action. He’s also a player whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors, even as recently as Thursday.
Bautista was active in the recent series against the San Diego Padres, three games that the Blue Jays got some pretty good looks at subpar starting pitching in. However, for his part, Bautista went just 1 for 11 at the plate with no extra-base hits. He did take some walks, but his numbers still were not impressive in the series:
Batting average: 0.091
On-base percentage: 0.286
Thursday, which is an off day for the Jays, saw a lot of trade rumors circulating involving Bautista and the Washington Nationals. Barry Svrluga, a baseball writer at The Washington Post, tweeted on Wednesday evening that the Nationals “inquired” about the outfielder.
However, an article at Sportsnet.ca from Thursday seemed to debunk the rumors. It suggested that “if the Nationals did ask the Blue Jays about Bautista, it’s more of the case of a general manager simply doing his job.” The same article claimed that it’s “extremely unlikely” that the Jays would move Bautista before the August 1st trade deadline.
Personally, I wouldn’t call it “extremely unlikely” that the Jays would move Bautista in the next few days. The bad numbers and the fact that they went out and got Melvin Upton Jr., another outfielder, both add some likelihood to a potential Bautista trade. But I would still call it “somewhat unlikely” that Bautista gets traded for the following reasons.
Firstly, Bautista is a fan favorite in Toronto, and there could be some fan blowback if he got traded. It’s true that the blowback wouldn’t last if the Jays did well for the balance of the season and into the playoffs. However, offloading Bautista carries a lot of risk for a GM: if the Jays don’t do well following any trade Ross Atkins would really become an unpopular man in Toronto.
Secondly, banking on Bautista improving soon is a very safe bet. His numbers against San Diego do bother me a bit because of the weak starting pitching that the Padres showed the Jays. However, Bautista is still a .800 OPS guy on the big picture, and I expect him back to normal over the longer term.
Lastly, Bautista demonstrated last season that he is a man of the moment. His three-run home run in the bottom of the 7th in the deciding game of the divisional series against the Texas Rangers proved that he’s not one to back away from the clutch at bats. Furthermore, he had another late-inning and clutch three-run home run in Game 6 of the ALCS that tied things up for the Jays before the umpires took control of the game and awarded it to KC. Bautista is clearly a player that the Jays would want for the pressure-filled postseason as he showed last year that he is made for it.
I think there’s some fluff out there with the Bautista trade gossip. However, to balance the debate, I still wouldn’t call it “extremely” improbable. Bautista 2016 isn’t Bautista 2010-2015, and the Jays do have a decent outfield without him.
Furthermore, I find it odd to call a trade involving any particular player “extremely unlikely” when you’re in the dark about who might be offered back. Jose Bautista for a 19-year-old minor leaguer might be “extremely unlikely” but Bautista for a distinguished starting pitcher that hasn’t been injured lately might be smart.
At bottom, GMs don’t win unless they make the perfect decision. But if the Jays get offered the right deal and GM Atkins doesn’t take it, then he could face wrath from that if Bautista’s post-injury numbers don’t get back to normal.