Washington Nationals Free Agent Target: Jose Bautista

With the Washington Nationals looking to add more power to the lineup, could Jose Bautista be a fit in 2017?

If the Washington Nationals are going to move Trea Turner into the infield, they are going to need add another starting outfielder to the team. One of the top outfielders on the free agent market this offseason is former Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista. Bautista is well known for his legendary bat flip during Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against the Texas Rangers.

Back in July, the Washington Nationals did ask the Blue Jays about a possible trade for Bautista, according to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. Then, last week in a column by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Bautista’s name was mentioned once again:

“As one NL executive said: “They were on Cespedes last year, so why would that change now? They had interest in [Jose] Bautista during the summer. They are looking for a right-hand power bat.” (h/t Sherman, The New York Post)

In 116 games this past season, Bautista had a slash line of .234/.366/.452 with 23 home runs and 69 RBI’s. While the 36-year-old hit over 20 home runs for the seventh consecutive season, the 22 home runs was his lowest since 2009 (13 home runs in 113 games).

One stat that has trended in the wrong direction for Bautista the last couple of seasons has been his high strikeout totals. He has struck out over 100 times each of the last two years, including 103 K’s in 2016.

If you go by WAR, Bautista’s 1.0 WAR in 2016 was over four runs lower than his WAR from 2015 (5.1). Plus, it was also the second lowest WAR of any Blue Jays player who played in over 100 games, according to Baseball Reference.

From a defensive perspective, Bautista has also declined in that category despite a strong throwing arm. In his last two seasons, he has a combined -11 runs saved, including -8 this past season (according to Fangraphs). Bautista’s playing time in right field has also gone down from 131 games in 2014 to 91 in 2016.

Bautista hasn’t played center field since 2014, so if he were going to sign with the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper would have to move to center field and Turner would go to shortstop. While Bautista has good power, it would be tough for the Nats to give him a deal any longer than two or three years.

All things considered, Bautista wouldn’t be a bad option for the Washington Nationals. But, at the same time, his numbers are starting to decline and they don’t have the designated hitter spot to put him at. If the Washington Nationals had a hypothetical choice between Bautista and Cespedes, they should go with Cespedes, even though that would mean offering a longer contract.

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