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Brewers Free Agent Targets: Jose Bautista

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Joey Bats in right field? Why not?

MLB: ALCS-Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers haven’t made a big splash in the Free Agent market this year (Tommy Milone barely made ripples), and are firmly committed to a rebuild. So what kind of crazy talk is looking at Jose Bautista?

Not so fast, my friend! There are many reasons that this move would make sense:

  1. Bautista is said to be willing to accept a one year “prove-it” deal worth the amount of the Qualifying Offer ($17.2 mil) or more.
  2. The Brewers certainly have the payroll money available; they were the league's lowest payroll team in 2016 (after crossing $100 mil the year before) and are currently projected for less than $60 mil in payroll in 2017.
  3. Domingo Santana would be a a very good fourth outfielder and would still find plenty of at-bats, as both Braun and Bautista would need rest days. He's passable in center field, too.
  4. Or...Santana could be excellent trade material if somebody were willing to pay a price commensurate with the production of his last 13 of the season, after he got healthy. Then Kirk Nieuwenhuis would still be on the roster as the fourth outfielder.
  5. This would be a great bone to throw to the casual fan.
  6. That line-up could score runs with the best of the National League.
  7. If healthy, Joey Bats could hit 50 homers and help us forget The Big Sleep, Chris Carter.

Did I miss any?

Bautista, of course, turned down serious money ($17.2 mil qualifying offer) to play a prove-it season in Toronto, and might want to go back there since they are expected to contend again. But it is possible that a $20 mil to $25 mil deal would get him into Milwaukee (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), with the promise of a full time opportunity and the possibility of a mid-season flip to a contender if he does well but the Brewers don’t. Really, the more I thought about this the more realistic it seemed. Even a second year option wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question.

A one-year deal like this wouldn’t hinder the rebuild at all. It might mean that Lewis Brinson goes another full year in AAA, but if Bautista were flipped before the trade deadline then Brinson could come up at that point. That hypothetical salary could be off the books next year (along with Matt Garza’s), so the Brewers would still have a ton of flexibility going into 2018.

Buatista is coming off a down year; he slashed .234/.366/.452, with 22 homers in 423 at bats. That’s still an OPS .818. It is possible that Santana could surpass those numbers, and it is possible that Bautista is breaking down at age 36. He will most likely never approach the Joey Bats of 2010-11 (.280/.412/613; OPS of 1.025). 97 homers, 227 RBI. (Excuse me; I have to wipe the drool off of this article). But signing Bautista isn’t just buying a lottery ticket; it is buying one when the jackpot is approaching $1 billion.

It appears that David Stearns is a cautious man, and has a pretty firm plan in place to build a perennially contending team. On the surface, a move like this seems contrary to his M-O. Plus, it would cost the Brewers a second round pick (their first is protected). So it isn’t without risk. But I for one am more than willing to take that risk - not that that matters a whit.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference

Special thanks to Kyle Lesniewski for unintentionally inspiring this post.