4 Teams Who Could Pull off Jose Bautista Blockbuster If Star Becomes Available
After an offseason in which they traded away several of their top prospects —catcher Travis d'Arnaud, center fielder Jake Marisnick and pitchers Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard— in an effort to upgrade their 25-man roster for 2013, the Blue Jays aren't going to give up on the season anytime soon despite a rough start.
At 20-28 and dead last in the AL East, the Blue Jays are already 9.5 games behind the 1st place Yankees and 7.5 games out of a playoff spot. They've won 10 of 17, however, and shortstop Jose Reyes (15-for-38, 5 SB in 10 games before injury) could return from an ankle injury in late June. A lineup with Reyes in front of Jose Bautista (11 HR, 27 RBI) and Edwin Encarnacion (13 HR, 38 RBI) could be the spark that pushes the team back into contention.
And if not? Well, that opens up a whole new set of fun and exciting trade possibilities we can discuss if the Jays go into "sell" mode. Not that I'd expect them to do what the Marlins did and get rid of every offseason acquisition, not to mention one of their longtime stars (Hanley Ramirez), because the team played poorly. But they have some serious trade chips on this team with none bigger than Bautista.
The 32 year-old, who signed a five-year, $64 million contract extension (2011-2015, plus 2016 club option) before the 2011 season, has been one of the top sluggers in the game since his 54-homer season back in 2010. He's posted a .989 OPS over his last 442 games so we're well beyond the point of thinking that his breakout season at 29 years of age was a fluke.
Two-and-a-half seasons of Bautista for roughly $35 million (plus a $14 million option for 2016) is a bargain in regards to dollars but acquiring him would cost a ton of young talent in return. Here are four teams that could have interest and what it would likely cost those teams to acquire Bautista.
They may not be going anywhere in 2013 but that doesn't mean the Cubs can't start preparing to make a run next season. Getting an early start on the offseason by adding Bautista to their lineup could give Cubs fans a reason to watch in August and September.
It could also give the team a slugger to build around as they go into year three of the Theo Epstein regime. And trust me. Things could get ugly in Chi-town if this team doesn't show major improvements next season.
While outfield prospect Jorge Soler (pictured, .889 OPS in 37 High-A games) was one of the first major acquisitions by general manager Jed Hoyer, it doesn't mean he wouldn't headline a deal to land them a superstar like Bautista. Soler and one of the team's other top three prospects, Javier Baez and Albert Almora, would be a very strong package even if no other players are included. It's doubtful the Cubs would want to trade two of those three though.
Along with Soler, the Cubs would likely have to include a close to major league-ready pitching prospect —Arodys Vizcaino is the lone option in this case— and two of their better lower-level prospects. Right-hander Pierce Johnson (3.32 ERA, 40.2 IP, 12 BB, 45 K in eight Low-A starts) and power-hitting first base prospect Dan Vogelbach, who had a 1.051 OPS in short-season ball last season, would likely be on a short list of players the Blue Jays would be interested in.
A look at what the Cubs' new lineup would look like with Bautista:
1. David DeJesus, CF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Luis Valbuena, 3B
7. Welington Castillo, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B
The Indians were aggressive this offseason, adding Michael Bourn (.797 OPS, 7 SB), Mark Reynolds (.877 OPS) and Nick Swisher (.853 OPS) to their starting lineup while trading Shin-Soo Choo in a three-team deal that landed them pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. It's paid off too, with the team 27-20 and only a half-game out in the AL Central while leading the majors with a .795 OPS.
But why stop there? The Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948. I say they should try to make their offense even more of a force. I won't pretend to know if they can afford to add Bautista's salary to their payroll, which is currently estimated at $80,600,000 by Baseball Prospectus. However, they might have enough talent and depth on the farm system to make it happen. And their current corner outfield tandem would be much more productive as a platoon (Michael Brantley has a .785 OPS vs RHP, Drew Stubbs has a .903 OPS vs LHP), rather than everyday players.
An elite prospect is a must for any Bautista trade talks, meaning they'd have to be willing to part with 19 year-old shortstop Francisco Lindor (pictured). The switch-hitter, who was the 8th overall pick in the 2011 draft, has an .846 OPS in High-A with 11 stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts. He doesn't have the offensive ceiling of Texas Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar, but he's not too far behind.
Reyes is signed through 2017 so one of the two would have to shift over to second base by the time Lindor reaches Toronto, possibly by mid-2015. The Indians would also likely need to include another top five prospect and at least one other good prospect to make this a possibility.
Here's what the Indians lineup could look like with Bautista:
1. Michael Bourn, CF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Nick Swisher, 1B
5. Carlos Santana, C
6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
7. Mark Reynolds, 3B
8. Jason Giambi/Ryan Raburn, DH
9. Michael Brantley/Drew Stubbs, LF
Kansas City Royals
Things were looking up for the Royals, who started the season 17-10 behind a new-look starting rotation that was carrying a very inconsistent offense. But while the starting rotation has struggled a bit as of late, the offense has not returned the favor.
It's looking way too familiar for Royals fans lately as the team has dropped 14 of their last 18 games to fall into 4th place and 5.5 games out in the AL Central. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are struggling and could find themselves back in the minors before long. Jeff Francoeur's career as a Royal could be nearing an end as his OPS has dipped to .578 with five walks and 36 strikeouts.
What this Royals teams needs is another big bat to go along with Alex Gordon and Billy Butler in the middle of the order. Acquiring Bautista would probably deplete their farm system but it may be well worth it to avoid a 10th consecutive losing season.
Starting with hard-throwing starter Yordano Ventura (pictured, 2.82 ERA, 44.2 IP, 33 H, 17 BB, 60 K in Double-A), Kansas City could put together a four-prospect package to entice the Jays. Adalberto Mondesi, a 17 year-old shortstop in Low-A, has risen up prospect lists this year and either of the team's top outfield prospects, Jorge Bonifacio and Bubba Starling, would likely be included. Kyle Zimmer, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, would also be on the short list of Jays targets.
Here's what the Royals lineup could look like with Bautista:
1. Chris Getz, 2B
2. Jose Bautista, RF
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Billy Butler, DH
5. Eric Hosmer, 1B
6. Lorenzo Cain, CF
7. Salvador Perez, C
8. Mike Moustakas, 3B
9. Alcides Escobar, SS
While the Bucs are probably happy to get what they're getting out of right field tandem Travis Snider (.726 OPS) and Jose Tabata (.744 OPS), just think of the impact Bautista would have as he would possibly hit between Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen at the top of the lineup.
Trying to avoid a 21st consecutive losing season, Pirates fans are probably ready to accept that one of their prized pitching prospects, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon (pictured), would have to go in a trade to bring back a much-needed impact bat. One of the two, along with top position prospect Gregory Polanco, a 21 year-old center field prospect with a .901 OPS with 19 stolen bases in High-A, could headline a package strong enough to bring Bautista back to Pittsburgh.
Here's what the Pirates lineup could look like with Bautista:
1. Starling Marte, LF
2. Jose Bautista, RF
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
4. Garrett Jones, 1B
5. Neil Walker, 2B
6. Russell Martin, C
7. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
8. Clint Barmes, SS