When the Mets picked up Jose Bautista earlier this year, expectations were pretty low. The 15 year MLB veteran had been a strong performer earlier in his career, especially with Toronto, where he was a six-time All-Star. But his production had dropped off radically as he aged. The 37 year-old had been released by the Braves after posting a .143/.250/.343 slash line to start the season. But instead of being washed up, Bautista has made a positive contribution to the Mets.
In 51 games for the Mets, Bautista has slashed .235/.396/.432. Not overwhelming, but that OBP actually is the best on the team so far. Bautista has demonstrated patience and selectivity at the plate, he has drawn 35 BB for the Mets, a big factor in his good OBP. He no longer is a feared slugger as he was in his prime, but he can still knock a long ball now and then. He has gotten some timely hits this year, most notably his walk off grand slam against Tampa Bay that resulted in a 5-1 Mets victory.
Besides being relatively productive at the plate (by 2018 Mets’ standards), Bautista has given the Mets excellent positional flexibility this year. Although Bautista has been mostly an outfielder in his MLB career, this year for the Mets he has played at both corner outfield slots, as well as third base, and second base. He has also been a DH and a pinch-hitter. No other Met, not even Wilmer Flores or Jose Reyes, has played as many different positions this year as Bautista has.
Sure Bautista is fighting to extend his career, so it makes sense that he would be open to being flexible as to what position he plays. This is in contrast to some of the other veteran Mets who have been choosy as to where they play in the field.
With the trade of Jeurys Familia to Oakland, the exodus of veteran Mets to contending clubs has begun. Could Bautista join that parade of departures? It’s possible that a contender looking for some depth and a veteran presence might be interested in Bautista. Earlier in July the MLB trade rumors site did report that some teams have made inquiries about his availability.
Obviously he would not fetch much in return, considering his age. If he does remain a Met for the rest of the season, he will probably get a fair amount of playing time. With a growing list of injured outfielders (Juan Lagares, Jay Bruce, and Yoenis Cespedes), there should be plenty of opportunities for him to play, especially since the Mets have tended to go with lots of relievers in the bullpen, for good reason. That leaves less room on the roster for bench players, so the flexibility of Bautista has value.
It would kind of ironic if, of all the moves the front office has made this season, the signing of Bautista turns out to be the best acquisition.