Minnesota Twins free agent profile: Jose Bautista
By Nate Palmer
The 2017-2018 offseason is here for the Minnesota Twins. Who could the Twins be targeting in the free agent market to improve their lineup?
Now that the Minnesota Twins have entered the offseason, they are looking to improve the roster through trades and through free agent signings. In this series, we’re going to examine individual players that the Minnesota Twins could have interest in this offseason through free agency.
We will not have any specific order to which player we highlight in this series, but we will look at each player’s past history, why he would be a good fit for the Minnesota Twins, and, last, the sort of contract likely to be required to sign the player.
Next up in the series is a slugger who has been making pitchers lose sleep from Toronto for several seasons now…
Jose Bautista, OF
For years, Jose Bautista has been striking fear into the hearts of Twins fans. Ever since finding his place in the league with the Toronto Blue Jays after early career struggles, Bautista has been one of the best bats in all of baseball.
The six-time All-Star and three-time silver slugger award winner brought home runs and swagger seemingly where ever he went. Bautista has hit over 40 home runs three times in his career, most recently as 2015. Twins fans have especially taken a front seat to some of Bautista’s finest at-bats. In Bautista’s career against the Twins, he has hit .310/.393/.699 with a 1.092 OPS and 24 home runs. Bautista has hit more home runs against the Twins than any other team outside of the American League East.
While Bautista has certainly had an impressive major league career, his production has suffered over the past two seasons. In 2017, Bautista only slashed .203/.308/.366 and 23 home runs. The hope would be that Bautista could rebound and recover some of his old slugging ways, but there is some concern that this just may be who Bautista is at age 37. Dave Cameron at FanGraphs recently examined Bautista and pointed out that his decreased contact percentage on swings and exit velocity may be evidence of a major change in Bautista’s ability to hit as he ages.
How he would fit
Bautista represents the potential right-handed bat that the Twins could pair with the trio of Joe Mauer, Eddie Rosario, and Max Kepler for when the team faces a left-handed starter. Bautista at this point in his career is best suited for first base or designated hitter, but it is possible he could still perform well enough defensively to play some innings in right field.
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With the questions surrounding Miguel Sano, it might be worth a gamble on Bautista to see if his past success at Target Field might buoy his performance even amongst some of his recent struggles. Bautista’s career stats at Target Field include a .324/.410/.794 slash line and just maybe the Twins could get similar production to that from him in 2018.
Until the Blue Jays declined Bautista’s 2018 option he was slated to make $18 million. While most certainly Bautista will not be able to make that much money on the open market, it will be interesting to see what Bautista might be able to convince a team to pay him for 2018.
There is certainly no guarantee that Bautista may even want to play for anyone besides the Blue Jays at this stage in his career and there is the potential he may simply choose to retire. Making a contract negotiation with him potentially difficult. If Bautista is looking for a similar deal to what Matt Holliday received from the New York Yankees in 2017 of 1 year for $13 million that is likely too high for anyone at this point. Even though it would be overpaying for Bautista’s current production, a contract for 1 year and $6-8 million might entice the slugger to sign.
Next: Twins free agent profile: J.D. Martinez
Should the Twins do it?
Bautista is certainly an interesting possibility for the Twins. He checks off a lot of boxes if he can perform more like 2015 Bautista instead of 2017 Bautista. The scary aspect of signing Bautista is Cameron’s findings that Bautista is making contact less and less and when he makes contact the ball isn’t travelling off his bat like it used to. The cheaper Bautista is willing to sign, the more he makes sense for the Twins but with retirement, a real option one could assume he will want to still make a decent amount of money. While Bautista is an enticing option, his combination of decline and potential cost makes him a player that isn’t an overall fit for the 2018 Twins.