While we’ve been wondering all offseason if Brian Dozier will indeed be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it seemed as if the Twins had put a halt to all other negotiations. After all, nothing has happened since Jason Castro was signed back in late November. Unfortunately, reports have come out lately that the Twins and Dodgers cannot agree upon the players to join Jose De Leon in coming to Minnesota.
However, an interesting tidbit has come out from the recent news. With the possibility of Dozier remaining a Twin this season becoming even more likely, now Derek Falvey and Co. are considering a crazy thought: sign Jose Bautista.
Granted, the news is truly that the Twins have reached out to his agent, but it’s intriguing that they now have some interest in the Blue Jays slugger. Since his 52-home run breakout in 2010, Bautista has been a feared hitter in Toronto but has been faced with a lack of interest this offseason. After declining the $17.2 million qualifying offer, Bautista has not been given any tantalizing offers as teams are skeptical of committing multiple years and tens of millions of dollars towards a player that was injured for parts of last year and will be 36 years old for all of the 2017 season. Therefore, rumors have surfaced that Bautista might consider a one-year “pillow contract” where he hopes to “fluff up” his value and then hit the open market again before the 2018 season.
But why would the Twins be interested? After all, just last season they surprisingly signed Byungho Park when first base was already occupied by Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano theoretically was the designated hitter because Trevor Plouffe was already penciled in at third. This led to the ill-fated experiment of Sano in right field, along with Park not only hitting under .200 but also spending half of the season either in Triple-A or injured. Essentially, the whole plan was a bust.
However, in spite of his declining defensive value, Bautista is still a better fit to the roster than Park was last year. Whereas Park was a first baseman, Bautista is a corner outfielder. Yes, the Twins already employ Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler, but the fact is that Rosario is probably better as a fourth outfielder than a starter due to his horrendous plate discipline. As for Kepler, he just had his first taste of the majors last season and the Twins may want him to get some more minor league seasoning. Even if you disagree with those arguments, Bautista would fit well as a righthanded bat, complementing the lefthanded swings of Rosario and Kepler.
Though the Twins would have to be creative at times, they could certainly fit Bautista on the roster. His presence would likely squeeze Park, Danny Santana, or Robbie Grossman off the active roster, but all three of those players have their flaws and it’s hard to argue that any of the three are better or more valuable than Bautista. Additionally, signing him wouldn’t completely be uncharacteristic of the Twins as they did sign Kendrys Morales to a one-year contract a couple years ago after the rest of MLB determined that they weren’t interested in his services.
With Bautista in the fold, here’s how the lineup could look in 2017:
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Joe Mauer, 1B
- Max Kepler, RF
- Jose Bautista, DH
- Miguel Sano, 3B
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- Jorge Polanco, SS
- Jason Castro/John Ryan Murphy, C
- Byron Buxton, CF
Bench: Eduardo Escobar, Castro/Murphy, any two of D. Santana/Grossman/Park
Certainly the actual order of the lineup is debatable, but this shows that the Twins could easily find room for Bautista. Park has an option and could be sent to Triple-A, and though Santana and Grossman are out of options, losing either to waivers shouldn’t be a big concern. Even if Bautista gets hurt during the season, the Twins have Park and Kennys Vargas as insurance. Finally, let’s say Bautista provides absolutely no value for the entire season. Since he would be signed to the pillow contract, the Twins would only have a one-year commitment and wouldn’t have to worry about being saddled with him beyond the 2017 season.
I can’t see any bad side to the possibility of Bautista in a Twins uniform for next season. The only question is if he and his agent find it worthwhile as well.