Want to have a fun little discussion on a Sunday afternoon?
Nick Cafardo, among his other Sunday Notes, writes about the Toronto Blue Jays and the potential that they could sell (or reconfigure) at some point this year. Of particular interest around these parts, he writes this about outfielder Jose Bautista: “[If the Blue Jays] don’t feel they’re contenders by mid-summer, they would likely try to sell off pending free agents Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Mark Shapiro will likely want to put his stamp on this team. Look for teams such as the Giants, Cardinals, and Cubs to have interest, especially in Bautista ….”
To be sure, the Giants, having just lost Hunter Pence for at least a couple months and with a weak outfield overall, seem like a prime destination for Bautista if he were moved. It’s fair to question the Giants’ ability to put together a competitive offer for him, though.
The Cardinals seem an odd fit on a rental, but I suppose you never know.
And then there are the Cubs. It’s fun to think about having a player like Bautista on the team for the second half – he’s a fun player with prodigious talent when he’s on – but the odds are against this one.
While this is undoubtedly interesting to discuss because of the name involved, it’s important to keep an appropriate perspective here. We’re talking about a star player, beloved on his team, and playing for a clear playoff contender. To see the Blue Jays actually deal Bautista, even if an extension looks impossible and he’s going to leave via free agency, would be something of a shock.
That said, if there was a team that could afford – from a roster standpoint – to deal a bat to upgrade elsewhere, it’s the Blue Jays.
Alternatively, even though the Blue Jays are a contender and are three games above .500 at present, a deep swoon from here until the end of July, I suppose, could change the calculus. In that instance, I’m sure they very much would consider dealing Bautista.
Would the Cubs actually consider buying?
Again, we’re a long way from there, and so much could depend on what else would happen with the Cubs (another injury in the outfield, and this conversation changes dramatically). As things stand presently, I’m not convinced that the Cubs would pay a huge price for a rental corner outfielder.
There’s also the matter of Bautista’s numbers being down a good bit in this, his age 35 season. He’s not much of a defender any more these days, so Bautista’s value lies entirely in his bat. And if that slips at all, then he might not be a huge upgrade. For now, the K rate is holding steady and the BB rate is excellent. The power has dipped this season (as has the BABIP), but that could be an aberration.
We’ll see how the Cubs’ needs shape up over the course of the next month and a half, and how the Blue Jays’ fortunes turn. A lot of this will also depend on how the market develops overall. If bats become the order of the day and the supply limited, the price tag on a guy like Bautista could be enormous.
In the end, it’s easy right now to think that the Cubs will simply stand pat at the Trade Deadline, given that they’re on pace for 110+ wins and look invincible. But a lot of times, the moves you make midseason are about protecting against downside risk, rather than further padding the win total.
And, if you’re a team like the Cubs – as good of a bet as any to compete in the postseason – it is also worth thinking about ensuring that the roster can be in its best possible shape once October rolls around. No, you can’t guarantee wins in the playoffs with midseason moves, but you can make a savvy deal here or there to move the needle ever so slightly in those games.
I tend to think such a deal is most likely to involve the pitching side of things, and more specifically the bullpen, but it’s fun to monitor it all.