Bautista’s return answers several questions for Blue Jays

With the new contract for Jose Bautista finally announced, the Blue Jays have direction and some answers to several important questions regarding their 2017 roster.

It finally happened. The story that has dominated the Blue Jays headlines since Edwin Encarnacion‘s departure to Cleveland has been whether or not Bautista would leave as well. Rumours popped up a daily basis, some stating that Jose would be back, others painting his imminent departure in a similar fashion to Edwin’s.

It was always unlikely that both would return, and with the early pursuit of Encarnacion it seemed unlikely that “Joey Bats” would be donning a Blue Jays jersey next season. The offseason has a funny way of playing out, and now here we are.

Now that Bautista is back in the lineup, let’s take a look at what the lineup  might look like next season. I’d do it for you, but Twitter had more than a few examples.

Or even this one, though I don’t see Gibby moving Josh Donaldson.

However manager John Gibbons stacks it up, Bautista’s presence in the lineup definitely helps. Down year in 2016 or not, he’s still a feared hitter who lengthens and strengthens the lineup card.

The addition might also clear up the outfield picture. With at least $18 million allocated to Bautista in 2017, it seems less likely that the front office will add another outfielder knowing the other roster needs that still exist. That certainly qualifies as good news for Ezequiel Carrera, Melvin Upton, and maybe even Steve Pearce. That trio figures to tackle the LF job, even if it’s an imperfect platoon situation. Dalton Pompey could force his way into the picture as well.

Speaking of the other roster needs, the Blue Jays are now able to move forward in their pursuit of bullpen depth, potentially a back-up catcher and likely some other starting depth. The bullpen is arguably the greatest need now that that outfield has been addressed, especially from the left side. With veteran Brett Cecil‘s departure to St. Louis in free agency, the Jays could use some added depth in the area.

The good news is, there are still several available bullpen options, and the Blue Jays should have some money left to spend. Travis Wood, Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan and more would jump to the top of the left-handed relief depth chart for manager John Gibbons. From the right side, viable options such as Joe Blanton, Sergio Romo, and even Greg Holland remain available. Holland is likely looking for a closing opportunity and more money than Toronto likely has left, but all of the other names could bring added depth.

It may have come about through a very unexpected route, but Bautista’s return is a great thing for the Blue Jays, especially now. They can finish their offseason shopping knowing that they have addressed their outfield situation with at least one established starter, added another middle of the order bat, and move on knowing what kind of budget remains.

With a little less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, finally getting a big roster question answered was crucial for the Blue Jays. Bautista’s signing represents the biggest move they have left to make, even if it’s just one of a few.

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