The availability of Blue Jays’ outfielder Jose Bautista remains in question as the trade deadline draws nearer. According to a report from Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post, the Nationals have inquired about Bautista all the same.
A report like this can be met with a heavy amount of skepticism; especially considering Svrluga’s own skepticism. However, there are some who suggest trading Bautista would be the right course of action for the Blue Jays.
Ok, this one is crazy and seems unlikely, but: person with knowledge says Nats have inquired about Toronto OF Jose Bautista. He is 10-5.— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 28, 2016
Furthermore, the recent acquisition of Melvin Upton Jr. gives the team four major league outfielders. While depth is definitely advantageous for a postseason run, having four players that think they all deserve starting positions could be difficult to manage.
Let’s parse this as realistically as possible:
The Blue Jays are rumored to be after starting pitching and also appear to be in contention. The Nationals are most certainly in contention so right off the bat, these two teams don’t seem to match up that well. However, upon further inspection, there is reason to believe a deal could be worked out between them.
In return for Bautista—one of the most elite and disciplined hitters in all of baseball over the past five seasons—the Blue Jays would likely want a handsome return. And, if it’s pitching they’re looking for, Lucas Giolito is a name that could come to mind. That being said, the pending free agent outfielder likely wouldn’t command that elite of a prospect return, despite his accolades. Perhaps unless the Nationals felt as if the chance of re-signing Bautista was nearly guaranteed.
Which brings us to the cost or re-signing Bautista. The 35-year old slugger is said to be looking for a big money contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of a five-year, $150 million deal. Switching to a contender likely wouldn’t change those demands much, as the Blue Jays are also expected to contend. Perhaps the chance to play for a team that appears to be heading into the beginning of a series of contention years could change that though. The Nationals have a young base of talent on which to build and could be considered long-term contenders.
Perhaps then, the Nationals would be looking to center the package to acquire Bautista around Gio Gonzalez instead. Gonzalez was involved in some trade rumors prior to the season, so perhaps he is still on the block. The 30-year old left-hander has been pitching to contact a bit more over the past two seasons, but is still posting favorable numbers to make him a valuable starting asset. Gonzalez is attached to a $12 million team option next season and a $12 million vesting option for 2018.
That being said, Gonzalez alone likely wouldn’t cut it from a Blue Jays’ perspective unless Ross Atkins and the rest of the Blue Jays’ front office feels compelled enough to make a deal happen. They alone have a better feel for their ability to sign Bautista beyond this season. If they feel that a deal the Nationals could muster would be worth more than the draft pick compensation attached to Bautista in the event he does sign elsewhere, then that could be the angle the team takes.
Then there’s the Nationals’ perspective on where to position Bautista. With his defense deteriorating, some believe he is best suited for a role with an American League team that can use him as a designated hitter. While the Nationals have had some problems resolving centerfield, the corner outfield spots are spoken for by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. Bautista has played 154 innings of first base over his career though, and wouldn’t find the task foreign if the Nationals opted to slot him there. Helping that narrative along is the fact that Ryan Zimmerman has been dreadful this season.
For all intents and purposes though, Svrluga’s first hunch is likely a good one. Two contenders getting together on a blockbuster deal like this would be unlikely to say the least. But, if any team could provide major league starting pitching in a deal and be able to incur the damages, the Nationals are as well-suited as any.