Toronto Blue Jays: 3 Contingencies If Jose Bautista's Injuries Continue in 2013
2012 has been a frustrating time to be a Blue Jays fan.
From a slew of injuries to important members of the pitching staff, to the unexpected turn in Ricky Romero's play, to watching a promising young team struggle in the basement of the AL East, it hasn't been fun to watch.
To make matters worse, over the last few months, several big-name position players have gone down with injury.
Initially, the injury seemed harmless but after over a month of rehab, doctors told Bautista he required season-ending surgery.
The big question for Jays fans is whether or not the injury is something to worry about. Will Bautista be ready in time for spring training? Will he be able to maintain his bat speed, something crucial to his success? Will he recede back into a utility bench player, or continue to post All-Star stat lines?
Either way, GM Alex Anthopoulos has some decisions to make heading into the offseason.
Here's a look at the options he has regarding Bautista's injury.
Sign or Trade for an Outfielder
It's a position that is easily replaced in baseball.
Outfielders who can hit are a dime a dozen. Outfielders who can hit like Jose Bautista are much more rare. But the fact is, if Anthopoulos wants to add another solid outfielder, he'll be able to. If Bautista has to miss any extended period of playing time, the ideal solution is a serviceable replacement.
Then again, there's always the option to go "all in" and try and make a big splash.
Anthopoulos has made some minor splashes during his time as the Jays GM, but has yet to make major headlines.
Making a run at players like Josh Hamilton or BJ Upton may not be his M.O., but if Anthopoulos wants to contend without a healthy Bautista, he'll have to consider shelling out some money to secure some quality talent. At the end of the day, this scenario will excite fans the most but seems the most unlikely.
Cheaper options like Torii Hunter or even David Ortiz would solve the problem and add veteran depth. Hunter has had a very solid 2012 season and the Angels will likely let him walk. Ortiz has had something of a renaissance, hitting .318 through 90 games. Ortiz and Hunter would want more term than money, so it depends on whether the Jays are willing to commit for more than one year.
Really, though, Anthopoulos is more a fan of trades than free agency, so a depth move for an outfielder is a major possibility as well.
This is an idea that might cause a few readers to shake their heads.
However, the Jays have the inside track with regard to Bautista's injury. They have direct information on the severity of Bautista's injury and how he will respond to surgery. That's not to say that the Jays should try and pull a fast one and trade an injured asset to another franchise.
But if Bautista struggles in his rehabbing after the wrist surgery, then there would be no better time to trade him than this offseason.
There's no point in having him sit in the press box for half a season only to have him return with swing problems and bat speed issues. If any of those arise before or during spring training, Anthopoulos should consider trading Bautista.
He would bring in a very large return and could help to shore up the Jays' biggest need: pitching.
In order to be successful in baseball, tough decisions have to be made. While it is unlikely and perhaps even pessimistic to suggest that Bautista won't be the same player he has been for the last few seasons, if he does have issues, the Jays ought to deal him.
This scenario is entirely possible.
The Jays' organization, and Anthopoulos in particular, have an immense amount of faith in Jose Bautista. When the team signed him to a five-year, $64 million deal in 2011, they did so for a reason: They believed in the player they were locking up.
The management, the players, the coaches all believed in Bautista's abilities, his leadership qualities and his work ethic. With that in mind, it wouldn't be surprising for the franchise to do nothing to try and supplement Bautista should his wrist injury continue to bother him.
And why not?
Bautista has recovered from injury before and has made a career of denying the expectations people have set out for him.
In an article appearing in the National Post, Rays outfielder Sam Fuld, who underwent the same surgery, said that he expects Bautista to be the same player he was before the injury. The fact that a fellow baseball player who has gone through the rehab process believes in Bautista trumps any other doubts about his recovery.
And in the end, what Jays fans want to see is Bautista succeed and defy expectations yet again.
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