2016 Statistics: .234/.366/.452, 22 HR, 69 RBI, 122 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR
Age on Opening Day 2017: 36
In his first four seasons in MLB, Jose Bautista hit 59 total home runs for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Toronto Blue Jays. Few outside of Bautista himself probably knew what he was capable of before the 2010 season. He was already 29 years old when he broke out and hit 54 home runs, finishing fourth in MVP voting. It was one of those great baseball stories where someone surprises the entire world with their performance. Even more surprisingly, he proved the doubters wrong and kept up his new found level of play, hitting 173 home runs over his next five seasons with a 26 fWAR.
Unfortunately for Bautista, 2016 was a different story. After playing in 155 games in 2014 and 153 games in 2015, Bautista only played in 116 in 2016. He still hit 22 home runs and had a 122 wRC+, but his defense continued to be poor, holding him to a 1.4 fWAR (his lowest since 2009.) Still, it was just over a year ago that he was doing this.
Could Bautista be a fit for the 2017 Yankees? I think so. In the past year, the Yankees have quickly cleaned house of RF/1B/DH types, of which they had way too many. Gone are Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann. In terms of a roster spot, Bautista fits because he could mainly DH and be a backup right fielder when needed.
In terms of cost, Bautista could be a good fit too. Unlike his 2016 teammate Edward Encarnacion, Bautista isn’t expected to get a massive, long-term contract. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he’ll get a three-year $50 million deal while noting that it could even make sense for him to take a one-year deal to try to build his value back up. The only downside for cost would be the lost draft pick that any team besides the Blue Jays would surrender for signing him (because Bautista declined the qualifying offer).
Three seasons ago, the Yankees took a shot on 36-year-old Carlos Beltran who rewarded them with two good seasons out of three. If Bautista is willing to take a short term deal with the Yankees, it could be a good fit for both parties. With a top farm system that is filled with ready-for-the-big-show players, a short term deal for a veteran bat might be the kind of move that gets the Yankees back to the playoffs.
Do you think the Yankees should sign Bautista?