Despite getting that idiosyncratic feeling that the Toronto Blue Jays will run off a large enough winning streak to get them within a couple games of the wildcard and make Ross Atkins’ life harder than it needs to be, it’s in the best interest of the Blue Jays to trade Jose Bautista. At least in terms of optimising next year’s salary, it’s in Jose Bautista’s best interest to be traded as well.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Jose Bautista definitely needs convincing that a trade works for him. Bautista has earned his ten-and-five rights and the full no-trade clause that they grant. If Jose doesn’t want to move away from his precious Booster Juice, Jose can stay and enjoy all of the benefits of a Strawberry Storm. Moving is, as we all know, a huge pain in the ass, so it’s utterly understandable for Jose to veto any trade.
Complicating things further has been Jose’s performance. He’s been a near-replacement level player in 2017 and hasn’t posted positive values offensively, defensively or on the base paths. Bautista has been consistently the slowest outfielder according to statcast, topping out at about 25.5 ft/sec which surprisingly ranks him as only the fifth slowest Blue Jay. Justin Smoak, Miguel Montero and Kendrys Morales are the obvious choices, but a gimpy Troy Toluwitzki also contributes to the Blue Jays having five of the slowest thirty players in major league baseball.
With all those warts, Jose Bautista is still Jose Bautista. It wouldn’t take too much convincing to sway rival general managers. Bautista comes with playoff experience and a history of power. There’s a case to be made that Bautista, despite his negative WAR, would provide tremendous value as a part-time corner outfielder down the stretch and into the playoffs.
A trade to Boston or New York would result in mutiny amongst the fanbase, so that’s off the table. Kansas City recently picked up Melky, Washington picked up Kendrick, and Arizona picked up Martinez, so they probably aren’t suitors. Chicago, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Houston and Colorado are all set as well.
This leaves us with two possible landing spots: Seattle and Cleveland.
Seattle has an injured Haniger to go with an awful Martin and a mediocre Heredia manning the third outfield spot. They could use a right-handed bat to go alongside Nelson Cruz and split up the lefties. However, I do not think that Jose waives his no-trade clause to move across the continent for a few months. The M’s have to be included however because for Bautista to be traded to the next team, the Mariners must first let him clear waivers and I do not believe that’s a given.
Bautista fits best in Cleveland and I think a reunion with Edwin Encarnacion is the best sales pitch you can throw at Bats to get him to waive his ten-and-five rights. Even if Lonnie Chisenhall comes back full strength, Bautista on the Indians makes sense. Bautista’s inclusion on the playoff roster wouldn’t be guaranteed, but the Indians would be trading for upside and Jose Bautista definitely has the upside to out-hit Brandon Guyer and Austin Jackson.
Even if all of the pieces fit, Atkins is forced with a tough decision. On a great day, trading Jose Bautista will fetch a rather paltry prospect package or save a few million dollars. Given that this is Jose’s last year in Toronto, it doesn’t make financial sense to trade away your ageing star for a few million in cost savings. It makes absolutely perfect baseball sense to take whatever you can get, but Toronto fans can be fickle and a trade of Joey Batflips would crush morale for this year (and probably next.)
To bring it back to the start, convincing Jose Bautista to leave Toronto should be relatively easy compared to the notion of convincing Toronto fans that trading Bautista is a sound baseball decision. Lord help us if a team claims Jose Bautista on waivers, and the Jays decide to let him go without compensation.