"He’s not the Blue Jay we wanted anyway," said the A’s fan with a PhD in sour grapes. Edwin Encarnacion is not coming to Oakland, despite Oakland’s attempt to lure him with $50M over 2 years. Now the A’s aren’t exactly linked to Jose Bautista, but the fit is at least imaginable enough that the marriage is predicted by Fanrag, or FANRAG, or something about rooting for your team at just the wrong time of the month.
Bautista is not without warts and risk, but I am in the camp that believes it would not be a bad signing at all to ink Bautista, even though he is coming off a poor season riddled with injury and he recently turned 36. Why is it still a good idea? Several reasons.
- Even in a down year, Bautista maintained an excellent OBP (.366) and OBP is not only one of the most important skills a batter can bring to the table, it’s also one nearly every 2016 A’s batter apparently left in the bathroom on their way to the table. Bautista’s career OBP is a robust .368 and he does not appear to losing anything in that area.
- Bautista will come cheaper than Encarnacion, probably a lot cheaper. FaNrAg (I’ll just try it a bunch of ways hoping one of them will be correct) guesses 2/$31M, but anything in that neighborhood would be considerably easier on the A’s wallet than the $50M they were prepared to offer Edwin. Money saved is money that can be allocated elsewhere, and while he is coming off of a down year (.234/.366/.452), as recently as 2015 Bautista put up numbers (.250/.377/.536, 40 HRs) that are every bit as good as what Encarnacion offers. There is an excellent chance that for the money, Bautista will actually be a better offensive contributor than Encarnacion.
- Bautista’s fielding has definitely declined, but he remains a superior defensive contributor to Encarnacion. More to the point, his presence would improve the A’s overall defense, even if only a little — against RHPs the A’s could put Matt Joyce at DH and Bautista in RF, upgrading their RF defense from poor to slightly below average. (Or they could put Joyce in LF and Davis at DH, accomplishing about the same amount of overall improvement over a Joyce-RF/Davis-LF alignment).
- Assuming any sort of a bounce-back, Bautista’s presence in the A’s lineup would immediately make it much better. Bautista is a legitimate #4 hitter (or #2 hitter if you prefer him there), who would give the A’s some pretty good length with Joyce and Bautista as high-OBP guys, Ryon Healy and Khris Davis as mashers, Stephen Vogt possibly in the mix, Marcus Semien and Bruce Maxwell at the bottom of the order.
- Worried that the A’s would become overly RH? One of Bautista’s notable strengths, and an other indicator of a guy who can "flat out hit," is that Bautista has virtually no platoon splits. Career vs. LHPs? .264/.375/.508. Career vs. RHPs? .252/.366/.489. Concerned that Bautista is simply a product of the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre? Yes, Bautista has a career home OPS of .894, but his career road OPS is a very strong .831.
Even in a down year, Bautista got on base at an elite level and he is only one season removed from banging 40 HRs. As risk goes, this is a good one and if his asking price is anywhere like 2/$31M I see many reasons to jump at the chance to sign him, few reasons to shy away. Heck, add Bautista and land a good long-term CFer and your off-season suddenly looks pretty good.
Get ‘er done, Forsty.