Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates his eighth inning home run with teammate Edwin Encarnacion #10 as Brian McCann #34 of the New York Yankees looks on at Yankee Stadium on September 12, 2015 in the Bronx borough of New York City
By Joe Giglio
Joey Bats in pinstripes?
As spring training contract conversation between Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays leads Canada’s best player closer and closer to a date with free agency next winter, the Yankees make sense as a team that could sign the slugger.
Yes, despite New York’s mantra to get younger, more athletic and less expensive, the 35-year-old outfielder is an intriguing option to be part of Yankees spring training one year from now.
Before scrolling down to the comments section to yell and scream about this thought, at least acknowledge this much: Bautista is one of baseball’s truly great players. Since 2010, the Blue Jays star has averaged a .945 OPS, 156 OPS+, 38 HR, appeared in six All-Star Games and had four finishes in the top 10 of AL MVP voting. In that span, here’s the complete list of players with an OPS+ over 150: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt and Bautista.
With that established, here’s why Bautista-to-New York is a marriage that can (and maybe should) happen next winter:
YANKEES HAVE MONEY TO BURN: While this offseason of avoiding free agents at all costs was refreshing for some Yankees fans, don’t expect it to continue forever. Even if the team truly is saving money for an eventual run at Bryce Harper and an all-time great free-agent class in 2019, it’s hard to imagine zero dollars spent on the open market until then. Furthermore, with Mark Teixeira (assuming he doesn’tcome back for five years), Carlos Beltran and Aroldis Chapman all off the books after 2016, the Yankees will have at least $50M less in payroll obligations for next season—and that doesn’t even include the $20M that could be freed if CC Sabathia ends the year on the DL.
BAUTISTA WANTS TO GET PAID: As fans have noticed the last few days, contract demands for Bautista will be insane. But he deserves it. According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth $195.7M since 2011. His contract over that span? $65 million. Even with a $14M option for 2016, Bautista hasn’t truly cashed in yet on his production.
NEXT YEAR’S FREE AGENT CLASS IS WEAK: Compared to this year and what’s coming in the near future. If the Yankees want to sign a star, not many are available.
HIS AGE WON’T HURT THE PLAN: It’s clear that the Yankees want to get younger, but signing Bautista for his late 30s won’t destroy that ideal. Next season—even with Bautista—the Yankees could have Greg Bird, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius andAaron Judge as everyday players in their 20s. Plus, Bautista isn’t your typical 35-year-old and could age very well.
A-ROD’S REPLACEMENT: Last year, the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez with an eye on one becoming the heir to David Ortiz’s designated hitter throne. With Alex Rodriguez’s contract up after 2018, that could be Bautista’s eventual job after a season or two in the outfield.