The Rays have interest in free-agent outfielder Jose Bautista, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, though Morosi notes that “there hasn’t been substantive dialogue yet.”
After seeing his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage all drop for the fourth straight season, the 37-year-old Bautista likely won’t earn much money this offseason and could be an interesting gamble for a lower-revenue club.
While it’s unlikely that Bautista will ever be an elite contact hitter again, he’s retained his ability to hit for power. He’s no longer going to lead the league in home runs like he did in 2010 and 2011, but Bautista hit 23 homers in 2017 and has now hit at least 20 home runs for eight straight seasons. Bautista also posted an on-base percentage of at least .350 every season from 2010-16, so it seems conceivable that he could rediscover his patience at the plate in 2018 and beyond.
Bautista’s power is less valuable than it used to be after the massive uptick in home runs this past season, but on a club that already features a solid collection of power hitters in Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr., Brad Miller, Evan Longoria, and Wilson Ramos, Bautista would fit in well.
It’s worth noting that while Tampa has enough defensively-adept outfielders in Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., and Mallex Smith that they’d probably be alright regardless, Bautista and Dickerson are somewhat redundant as corner outfielders who are probably better suited for the designated hitter position. But if the Rays are unable to re-sign free agents Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda and decide to pull the trigger on Bautista, they could consistently utilize either Bautista or Dickerson at DH while perhaps also giving Bautista some time at first base.