Oakland Athletics: Possible Destination for Jose Bautista?

After failing to sign Edwin Encarnacion, the Oakland Athletics may want to consider signing Jose Bautista.

The Oakland Athletics have been rather bland this offseason. One move to spice things up could happen if they choose to sign free agent slugger Jose Bautista. An unprecedented transaction for many reasons, the Athletics have nothing to lose other than money for a year.

When Edwin Encarnacion became a consideration for the Athletics, a few possibilities opened. Encarnacion didn’t seem to fit the scheme of low-cost players they normally employ. Yet somehow, they at least considered signing the home run rich first baseman.

Encarnacion eventually settled with the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians instead. After all, the dollars were probably higher as is the chance to win.

If the Athletics were indeed interested in Encarnacion’s services, there’s a possibility Bautista could become their next desire, too.

Bautista has not received nearly the amount of interest someone of his talent should. This is largely due to the qualifying offer he turned down and the loss of a draft pick that comes with it. However, the Athletics’ pick is protected as they were one of the worst teams in MLB last year. The big excuse many teams have for not signing Bautista is not one they can use.

The timeline of Bautista’s free agent winter has been more dramatic than most. Dating back to the 2016 preseason, Bautista set hopes very high with a large contract demand. As the season progressed, it became clear he would not receive the total he thought he was worth.

As the story continued, he unwisely declined the Toronto Blue Jays’ qualifying offer in November. Certain he’d get more in free agency, he hit the open market expecting a flurry of offers. Instead, Bautista joined a free agent class filled with power hitters limited on defense. This diluted what Bautista has to offer completely and may force him to settle with a team like the Athletics.

Only recently has it been reported that Bautista would accept a one-year deal. However, the catch is that he wants more than the $17.2 million the qualifying offer would have paid. Pride mixed with arrogance has continued for Bautista despite no one giving in to him. This only increases the Athletics’ ability to sign him.

Not too many teams seem interested in dealing with Bautista. Injuries, age and declining defense have him almost exclusively available in the American League. His actions on the field have already crossed him off the Texas Rangers’ list for life. He also won’t see many friendly faces in other cities as well due to his reputation.

When considering playing time, the Athletics remain one of the better opportunities for Bautista. Matt Joyce is their starting right fielder next year whom they can get flexible with. At first base, they have Yonder Alonso. More importantly, it’s their spot at DH where Bautista would fit in. The team has no true designated hitter other than Khris Davis. However, Davis is still capable of playing left field. Bautista in the DH spot could keep him fresher. This could greatly help the Athletics increase his trade value.

Signing Bautista to a one-year deal would help the Athletics with the age-old strategy of adding veterans with the intention of flipping them at the trade deadline. Certainly, if Bautista plays well enough, some suitors will come forward. Many appear afraid of long-term commitment to a guy they are unsure about. As a rental, someone will give in.

In his prime, Bautista would have been perfect for the Athletics with his amazing ability to get on base. Fortunately, even as he enters his age 36 season, this is still a major asset of his. His .366 OBP in 2016 was among the league leaders. If he can at least maintain this, there’s value in him moving forward whether he ends up with Oakland or in another city.

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