How the Blue Jays approached things with Jose Bautista this past season should be a lesson learned on how not to go about overplaying their veterans and using them in roles they’re no longer suited for. Was it right to be starting Bautista in right field this season? Absolutely…it’s what he deserved and no one could have predicted the off year he’d have. Was it right to play him in 157 games? Certainly not.
John Gibbons is the sort of manager who will almost always go with a veteran over a player with less experience, even when that older player is playing well below what they’ve contributed in the past. With Bautista, it wasn’t just that the Blue Jays continued to run him out there day-in and day-out in 2017, it’s that they continued to put him in the heart of the order for the entire year despite his AVG hovering around .200 the whole time. This wasn’t so much of a big deal considering that Toronto was never really in contention to begin with. But what if the Blue Jays had been in a heated playoff race and still chose to use certain players in important roles even when their performance said otherwise?
It’s understandable that Gibbons and the Blue Jays have a certain loyalty to the veterans who’ve paid their dues in this league. But when those veterans are being utilized in a way that hurts the team, Gibbons surely needs to re-evaluate how he goes about playing them.
Even with Bautista not returning, Toronto still has a number of players whose age has begun to take its toll on their play. Throughout their careers, Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki have been leaned on heavily, and rightfully so, they were once elite players. What Toronto needs to understand however, is that although Martin and Tulowitzki are still capable of playing at a reasonably high level, they can only do so if given the proper amount of rest befitting a player their age.
It’s easy to think that because Martin and Tulowitzki are both making $20 million/year that they should be playing nearly every single game, but the truth is they aren’t those kind of players anymore. Next season, if Toronto continues to rely on their older players as much as they did in 2017, it’ll just lead to the same slew of injuries and drop in performance that plagued this team for most of the year. Here’s hoping they’ve learned from those lessons.