According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cleveland Indians are still “staying in touch” with outfielder-ish Jose Bautista. That sounds like a lot of nothing, especially in the barren wasteland of January baseball news, but the first rumblings of the Indians an Edwin Encarnacion started with the Tribe front office “checking in on” the slugger, so I’m not counting anything out completely.
Well, not completely, but mostly. The Indians’ payroll currently sits at around $110.3 million, according to Spotrac. And that’s with Brandon Guyer still to be signed through arbitration. If the Indians are going to pursue Jose Bautista as some kind of outfield/DH combo (heavy on the DH), it would likely be for nowhere near the $17 million he is searching for. If Bautista signs with the Indians, he’ll need to swallow his pride, admit he should have accepted the Toronto Blue Jays’ qualifying offer, and sign for much, much less.
This sounds more like due-diligence on the part of the Indians than anything, who are out of most free agent signings since inking Encarnacion to a three-year deal earlier this month. But they are still watching and waiting for super bargains.
As for where Bautista would even fit on the Indians, it’s not easy to find a place where he could get everyday playing time. Unless the Indians are willing to piss in the face of defense and put Bautista in the outfield every day, he’s going to fighting against Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion for time at designated hitter. That’s not a battle he is going to win very often.
Bautista finished 2016 with a .234/.366/.452 slash for a wRC+ of 122. That translates to his worst offensive output since he broke out in 2010 and hit 54 home runs. Prior to that miraculous season, Bautista slashed a pedestrian .235/.349/.408 in time split between the Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates.