Mike Puma of the New York Post reported yesterday that the Mets have “shown interest” in free agent third baseman and corner outfielder Jose Bautista.
Bautista, 37, was released by the Atlanta Braves this past weekend after hitting just .143/.250/.343 with two homers and three RBI in 40 plate appearances.
Bautista had signed for the league minimum after a weak .203/.308/.366 showing in 2017 with the Toronto Blue Jays failed to attract the winter market. A whiff rate that jumped 8.3 percent and ISO that fell 121 points from his 2015 metrics best characterize the fall from grace. The Mets would be foolish to expect the MVP candidate from Toronto to resurface, but given his .213/.350/.385 line across his previous two Aprils and .143 BABIP and 34.8 percent hard-hit rate in Atlanta, they may have reason to believe Bautista can adjust and produce off the bench.
Although a far cry from Juan Lagares, Bautista, at the very least, would be a defensive improvement over Wilmer Flores and/or Jose Reyes while offering more power in the outfield. At third base, his range factor per game of 1.75 (dating back to 2014, about 70 points below league average) would serve little benefit, however.
What’s more, while it may sound pretty showing Reyes the door to clear a spot, Mickey Callaway and the front office have both made it clear he will have time to succeed.
In the event Bautista comes to Queens, it’d be more likely (even if less ideal) that we see less of Gavin Cecchini, Phil Evans, Luis Guillorme, and Dominic Smith, among other names. If Reyes can survive a month and a half on a competitive baseball team with a .367 OPS, it’s fair to assume the Mets value him highest as a mentor to Amed Rosario. As a result, signing Bautista would only further age a team that desperately needs to get younger.
Not to mention, adding Bautista, even with the slight chance the Mets catch lightning in a bottle, would bear long-term conflicts along the depth chart, with Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes slated to come back in the hopefully near future. With a decision being made in the coming days, however, the Mets will have to decide if it’s worth the risk. The potential upside is appealing, but the consequences could further hamper the offense and slow a real chance for growth as the team hangs snugly in a tightening NL East division. We will see.