Based on Jose Bautista‘s play from the past few seasons, the biggest concern about his game heading into 2017 had less to do with his bat, and more to do with whether or not he could still get things done on defense.
Although Bautista didn’t have a typical year for himself hitting wise in 2016, much of that could be attributed to his missing 46 games to injury. Offensively speaking, 2017 has been a rough year for Bautista (as it has for many other Blue Jays), so bad in fact that Toronto needs to re-think how they go about utilizing him the remainder of the season.
Considering that Bautista is such an iconic player for the Blue Jays, it would be a difficult decision to use him any way that wavers from how he’s been used since his breakout season in 2010. Because of what Bautista means to this organization, do the Blue Jays just bite the bullet, continuing to play him everyday in right field and bat lead-off, only to have him continue to struggle at the plate for the remaining two months of the season.
Frankly, I don’t want to see Bautista go out like this. When I think back on his remarkable career in Toronto, I want to remember all the wonderful things he accomplished when he was the most feared power hitter in baseball, and not have those memories tainted by a few bad years at the tail-end of his career. On top of that is the fact this team is not completely out of contention, and now after the trade with Houston, have several players more than capable of helping Bautista carry the load out in right field.
With the addition of Nori Aoki, Toronto has another solid right fielder who could be a quality replacement for Bautista when needed. At his age, playing Bautista as often as they have been is not working for the Blue Jays. A little extra rest may be just what Bautista needs to coerce some more offense out of that bat of his. Anyways, Aoki is far too good a player to be sitting on the bench most of the time, especially when Toronto’s starting right fielder is struggling as badly as he has.
Over the years, having seen a great many home runs hit by Bautista, fans of the Blue Jays have grown accustomed to seeing him crush certain pitches in particular. Those same pitches that Bautista used to smoke into the seats for a home run are now being fouled off or missed completely. Bautista can no longer play at the same level he used to on a daily basis, but that isn’t to say he still can’t be an offensive threat if given more time to rest. With the addition of Aoki, Toronto might want to start platooning both him and Bautista. By doing so, the Blue Jays wouldn’t be showing a lack of respect for their iconic player, they’d simply be trying to get the most out of him by doing what’s best for the team.