Joey Bats was signed last week to a non-guaranteed deal, and over the weekend, DOB said that he could join the Braves this week. If it were 2015, you’d be wondering how the Braves acquired Bautista on a minor league deal. But it’s 2018, he’s 37 now, and he’s coming off a rapid decline in his production.
You probably know a little bit about him as he’s been a bit of a lightning rod, and he had a run of being one of the premier power hitters in the game. But since he played in the Junior Circuit, let me give you some background.
Bautista did not begin his career as an elite power hitter until late in his career. He was a utility player for Pittsburgh that Alex Anthopolous, when GM of the Blue Jays, essentially acquired for nothing. AA has said that he had no expectations that Bautista would become the power hitter he would become. At the age of 29, Jose exploded to a .260/.378/.617 season in which he hit 54 HRs and drove in 124. He became a more complete hitter the next year producing a .302/.447/.608 line. He would have a peak that would span to his age-34 season in 2015.
We obviously did not acquire the hitter as described. In 2016, he declined to a .234/.366/.452 line while playing very poor right field defense. Last year, he was sub-replacement level, producing a .674 OPS in a full season of very bad right field defense. He went unsigned this offseason as the market corrected and he was believed to be finished. He will attempt to play third base for the Braves, and the early reports from minor league infield instructor Adam Everitt are that he may not be completely finished. If he can play a passable third base, and he can be a shell of the hitter he was during his peak, he can provide some right-handed hitting protection for Freddie Freeman, and if he’s not, the Braves are only out the $1M they signed him to. Obviously they believe he’s closer to even his 2016 performance vs. his putrid 2017 season, or else the Braves wouldn’t have signed him. They also were willing to invest $1M in seeing if he could play third base, and he seems to have passed that test as well.
If he gets the call to Atlanta, then they will probably look to give him at least a week to two weeks to see if he can be an asset. And if not, there are plenty and plenty and plenty and plenty of options to fill third base, so what do you have to lose?