Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Persuing Jose Bautista Seems Unconventional

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
While the Hot Stove has cooled down on any Brian Dozier rumblings, news out of the Twin Cities has the Twins interesting in adding other depth to their roster. MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger is reporting the Twins have touched base with multiple agents for position players and this includes former Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista.

A conflicting report from the Star Tribune's LaVelle E. Neal III says the speculation surrounding Bautista needs to cool down. He's "hearing the Twins aren't interested in him." 

Does signing a free agent slugger fit with the Twins' current direction?

For a rebuilding organization, it might seem like a bold strategy to add a veteran player. Last winter, reports had Bautista seeking a contract extension of over five years and $150 million. The 36-year old made multiple DL stints this year as he battled toe and knee issues. He played in 116 games but he saw a decline in his power and his defensive skills continue to be an issue.

This was the third time in the last five seasons where Bautista failed to play over 118 games. Back in 2011, he led all of baseball in slugging percentage (.608) and OPS (1.056). However, those totals have dropped in recent years as he batted .234/.366/.452 in 2016.

It seems more likely for Bautista to stay with an AL squad where he can spend some of his time as a designated hitter. Minnesota already has the likes of Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas, and Byung-Ho Park to get at-bats at DH. Adding Bautista to this mix, could make this a little crowded.

Minnesota's current outfield projects to include Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Max Kepler. All of these players are young and there's no telling what kind of performance the team will coax from their young core. Bautista could provide some insurance in the corner outfield and a veteran voice in the locker room.

KSTP's Chris Long interviewed Derek Falvey about the possibility of adding Bautista to a rebuilding organization. "We'll continue to monitor all potential avenues for players, whether it's free or trades," he said. "I wouldn't shut the door on any player out there right now, even if it was slightly unconventional."

In recent years, players like Nelson Cruz and Dexter Fowler have been open to unconventional deals. Both of them signed one-year contract to increase their value before becoming a free agent again. It sounds like Bautista would be open to this idea but he'd want the one-year deal to be worth more than the $17.2 million qualifying offer he turned down.

Since he rejected Toronto's qualifying offer, Bautista also comes tied to a loss of a draft pick. Minnesota's first overall pick is protected but the Twins would be forced to surrender their next highest pick. That pick would be the fifth pick of the Competitive Balance Round between the first and second round. Under the old regime, Minnesota was willing to do this when signing Ervin Santana.

Conventional wisdom would have to think Bautista is searching for a big payday. After an unconventional path to the big leagues, it took him until late into his 20's and early 30's to establish himself as a consistent MLB regular. As an aging slugger, this could be one of his last opportunities to sign a multi-year free agent contract.

For Twins fans, Bautista has been a nemesis since Target Field opened. He's hit .349/.429/.895 with 14 home runs and five doubles in 21 games. His 1.324 OPS at Target Field is his highest mark at any ballpark where he's played more than five games.

It doesn't seem like Bautista would be a perfect fit in Minnesota even on a one-year deal. With a draft pick tied to him and Bautista continuing to age, it would certainly seem unconventional considering the Twins current state of affairs.

What are your thoughts on a potential Bautista signing? Do the Twins need more veteran players? Is he worth giving up a draft pick? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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