Outfielder Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays is one of baseball’s best power hitters in the game today. In 2010, he hit 54 home runs and has continuously belted dozens of homers each year.

After becoming a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, Blue Jays fans across the country desperately hoped for his return, despite the slim odds. In the end, on January 18th, 2017 (the best day ever!!) Jose Bautista signed a one-year, 18 million dollar contract, with the club he has spent the majority of his MLB career with and the only club that ever gave him a chance.

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RF Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays Photo courtesy TSN.ca

 

Jose Bautista’s baseball career began in 2000 when he was drafted in the 20th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He showed some potential power which helped him quickly advance through the Pirates minor league system. By late 2003, he was already playing with the Pirates High A affiliate in Lynchburg, Virginia. Bautista struck out a lot, which concerned the Pirates, but proved he had power, hitting 20 extra base hits in 195 plate appearances. But those high strikeout totals concerned the Pirates enough to make the Pirates leave him unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft.*

Jose Bautista’s wild baseball journey was about to begin.

Jose Bautista was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles, (yes, at one point Bautista was an Oriole, the team that now loathes him) on December 15th, 2003 through the Rule 5 Draft, playing very little ball with the team in 2004. In June of that year, Baltimore Placed him on waivers where he got picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays, but just 25 days later, the Kansas City Royals purchased the rights to him. It didn’t stop there for Bautista. A month after the Royals picked him up, the club traded him to the New York Mets for Justin Huber. Then, the Mets almost immediately traded him back to the Pittsburgh Pirates, his original team.

Returning back to the Pittsburgh, Bautista had high hopes, assuming that if the Pirates had put the effort into bringing him back, meant he’d be getting consistent playing time. But all Bautista got was a few at bats here and there, consistent time spent on the bench and frequent trips down to the minors. Extremely frustrated with his situation, Bautista requested a trade. J.P. Ricciardi, the general manager of the Blue Jays of the time, wanted a utility man for his team and traded prospect Robinson Diaz in exchange for Bautista. The Pirates would soon realize that letting go of Bautista would be one of their biggest regrets.

The Blue Jays took a chance on Bautista and with the help of their hitting coach Dwayne Murphy and manager/former top hitting coach Cito Gaston, they turned Bautista into the power hitter he is today by making small adjustments to his swing. He earned the nickname, “Joey Bats”, which I may add, I personally don’t like, in September 2009 after blasting 10 homers that month. That was just the beginning of his power ride as the very next year, he smoked 54 home runs, the most of any Blue Jay in history. Since then, he has been recognized as one of the best home run producers in the game, even participating in the 2011, 2012 and 2014 Home Run Derby.

Could Bautista have put up the same numbers up like he does for the Blue Jays for his past teams? Who knows. All they had to do was give him a chance; something they never did.

 

*The Rule 5 Draft states that teams can select players who have been left off of their team’s roster. The player would become the team’s property (for a small amount of money) and the team that selected the player would have to keep them on their 25 man roster for the whole season or else there’d be a risk of that player returning to their original team.
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