To beat the Rangers, do the Astros need to add Jose Bautista to help switch the balance of power?
There have been hardly any connections to the Houston Astros and Jose Bautista. The only connection I can think of is that he signed two autographs for my kids last year. While he seemed like a nice guy, it would cost the Astros way too much to sign the aging slugger. Since they swung and missed on his teammate Edwin Encarnacion, it’s only natural for Astros fans to wonder.
It would make compelling television to have Brian McCann and Bautista on the same team when the Rangers come to town. They have a history with Rougned Odor and Carlos Gomez, but it couldn’t hurt the fight to take back Texas. Give them a little more punch in the lineup. One thing is sure. The AL West division will go through Arlington. Would Bautista help them accomplish this? Yes, but here are some caution signs.
First of all, Bautista could be on the decline. He only played in 116 games in 2016, batting .234 with an OPS of .817. While that is higher than Gomez’s last season in Houston, it was down from his career .861 OPS. Bautista has had trouble staying healthy over his career, only playing a full season six times. At the age of 36, these injuries will continue to appear until he retires. His bat flip shenanigans will not matter if he’s only hitting 10-12 homers a year.
Let’s take a look at the ZiPS projections for Bautista in 2017 via Fangraphs. The first thing that jumped out to me was the 510 plate appearances, which is similar to the 517 he had in 2016. While projections normally don’t account for time missed the previous year, the ZiPS projections seem too. He’s projected to hit 28 homers and driving in 85 runs. While this offense could help lead the Astros to the World Series, would it be worth it?
Draft pick worthy?
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Second of all, he was expecting a long-term extension or deal last offseason. Bautista, unfortunately, had a down season in his walk year. I remember the talk of a five-year contract demand last year, but players as old as Bautista don’t get long-term deals. It is rumored that he is open to signing a one-year deal. However, this would not be a good move for the Astros. If you are going to sign him, get him for at least three years.
Why, because he will cost the Astros the 15th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. The Blue Jays extended him a qualifying offer, which he declined. Because of this, the team that signs him will lose a first round pick. One year of an aging Bautista is not worth losing the draft pick unless he puts the Astros over the top.
Too expensive for the Houston Astros?
But he has stated that he will accept a one-year deal only if he gets more than he could have gotten with the qualifying offer. He turned down a guaranteed $17.2 million dollar from the Blue Jays. It’s one thing to throw $16 million at the 39-year-old Carlos Beltran. He didn’t cost the team a pick.
Then you have to consider his clubhouse presence. Steve Phillips said that Bautista could suck all the energy out of the clubhouse. The Orioles came out and told Bautista that the fans dislike him, so they were not going to sign him. It appears that money and Bautista’s reputation have hurt his value. The Blue Jays have yet to offer a larger contract to him according to Jon Morosi.
It was my belief that the only additional bat the Astros would add was Encarnacion. Now that he is a member of the Indians, the Houston Astros could add someone like Bautista or Mike Napoli. Some experts could say that a top of the rotation pitcher is needed more but imagine another bat. With the pick attached, I see him staying with the Blue Jays.
If his price tag comes down, I wouldn’t mind adding him to the team. But, it would need to be longer than a year to justify the pick. This would negate signing Nori Aoki and further devalue A.J. Reed and Jake Marisnick. If you add Bautista, he might be batting at the bottom of the order. I know the Rangers are out on Bautista with Odor on the team.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs***