Joey Bats is batting no more. Now he is batting for the Mets. Ha. José Bautista’s time with the Braves was short-lived, but you can’t say that he wasn’t given the chance to prove himself multiple times in high leverage moments. When Bautista joined the team on May 4, Braves country was excited as well as a little concerned at how Bautista would work with the chemistry of the team. Still, it was a chance to have a bigger name and a big bat on the team that could possibly help carry the team at third, even when his preferred placement on the field was the outfield. In the 12 games that Bautista played in a Braves uniform, he had 5 RBI’s and 2 home runs in 35 at bats. He walked away from the Braves with a .143/.250/.343. Not exactly the numbers the team and fandom were expecting.
Jose Bautista was one of many free agents that went unsigned this offseason, so when Alex Anthopoulos gave Bautista a shot and added him to the organization we all hoped for more from Mr. Bats. It makes one wonder, was not being a part of a big league club’s normal spring training ultimately what lead to Bautista’s dismissal? Possibly. After spending every previous spring with a club preparing for a season, it’s hard to join a club after not playing with a team and a new team at that. When the Braves acquired Bautista he played a couple of weeks of games in the minors before joining the Braves in Suntrust Park. Yes, he had some success in the time he spent with the Braves farm system and yes, he is a veteran ballplayer, but he was a veteran ballplayer with a new team and probably not enough time spent in the minors and he was just thrown into the mix with the big league expecting to bring something to the team. Now, as you know there was a so-called “spring training” set up for all the free agents who were still hoping to be picked, but quite frankly, it’s not the same as spring training with a team.I say all of this to make this simple point: Bautista had his time to shine and blew it and now that he has been released from the team, his experience sets a precedent for other free agents that are still waiting to be picked up. Bautista was one of the very few free agents that was picked up after the season started; he was a glimmer of hope to those who were still hoping to be selected. Teams are not going to want to take on a free agent at this point in the season if they know that those free agents have not been playing regularly or interacting with a team in order to build team chemistry. Bautista is just one example of why teams are not picking up free agents like John Lackey, Yunel Escboar, Brandon Phillips, etc who are stilling waiting for a call. I hate it for all the guys that are currently free agents because there are some good guys whose talent is going to waste when they could be used. But teams don’t want to pick someone up who hasn’t been practicing out of fear of a scenario similar to Bautista’s.
There are so many guys that could be beneficial to so many teams including the Braves. The problem comes when a team goes and gets one of these free agents and the team hypes them up in hopes of bringing in fans and they flop; teams are reluctant to take a chance. It is this endless cycle of guys with talent wanting more money. Then teams not wanting to pay but needing the talent. Then not willing to pick up talent because they are not up to speed with the team or in the right shape. The Braves didn’t spend that much on Bautista so it was not that much of a risk, so the Braves walk away from the deal pretty good and unchanged. Yeah, it would have great if it worked out, but it didn’t so they’re moving on.
Whether you liked Bautista or you thought he should have been let go sooner, it was the right time for him to leave. In years past, players that were struggling were given multiple chances, more than they deserved, to try and prove that they could turn it around and be successful for the team, *cough, cough, Jim Johnson*. Getting rid of Bautista at this point in the season was a good call on Alex Anthopoulos’ part. Bautista letting balls pass by, he wasn’t batting well and he was in many situations that could have propelled him and the team to success and instead he struck out. At the beginning of the season, Alex Anthopoulos said he was ready to help the team win and despite his longstanding relationship with Bautista, this move proves that Anthopoulos is truly here to take care of and build this organization into a successful team.
According to the Toronto Star, Anthopoulos said:
We took a shot, certainly (there) was a lot of upside for us if it clicked … We certainly didn’t feel like there was any downside.”
If Bautista continues to play the way he did with the Braves he doesn’t need to be on a national league team. He needs to be placed on an American league team where he can play DH, that way he can get in some at bats and learn how to hit a ball again and not take up a valuable place on the field. Now that Bautista has been picked up by the Mets, I’ll be interesting to see how he does for them and whether or not he will be able to pull it together. If he can’t, I fear that he just needs to hang it up.
Sadly, some of the guys that are left on free agency will probably retire if they cannot find a job, even young guys who’ve got some good years left. Bautista’s situation was definitely a unique, but whatever the reason, whether it was not getting proper spring training, age or a new team, Bautista was given chances that he wasted. In the end, he was released and with his departure, he set the tone for other free agents in a negative way.