Toronto Blue Jays: The way forward looks unclear for Jose Bautista

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Jose Bautista
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Jose Bautista /

It sure seems like former Toronto Blue Jays star Jose Bautista is becoming increasingly desperate to find a team, especially if the recent story about his vision is anything to go by.

You can make a justified argument that Jose Bautista is one of the top five players in franchise history. His name is near the top in a multitude of career categories for the Toronto Blue Jays.

In fact, just a couple of years ago, it was entirely feasible to imagine Bautista’s name eventually moving to the top of several of those same categories. Entering the 2016 season, he was considered fitter and more durable than most baseball players his age. (And many who were younger.)

Unfortunately for the then 35-year-old, the 2016 campaign started to see reality set in, as injuries limited him to 116 games. He also recorded his fewest home runs and second-fewest RBI since 2009, along with his worst batting average since 2005 (when he only had 31 plate appearances).

Many believed Bautista’s offensive numbers were impacted by injuries rather than age, and were predicting a bounce-back season in 2017. However, this was not the case.

While the three-time Silver Slugger played in his most games (157) since his breakout season in 2010, he could not recover his offensive prowess at the plate. In addition, his play in the outfield started to slip noticeably.

Now Bautista’s dream of finishing his playing career in Southern Ontario were looking as shaky as ever. And the dream officially turned into a nightmare, when the Toronto Blue Jays confirmed they would not exercise his option for 2018.

As of today, with just over two weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the six-time All-Star finds himself without a team. It doesn’t seem right and is certainly not fitting of one of the best players in all of baseball during the last decade.

However, that is the reality of professional sports, which is just as much — if not more — a business as an entertainment industry. So what does the future hold for Bautista?

It seems unfathomable that someone won’t give the 2000 20th round draft pick an opportunity to prove himself. As of right now though, there has been little to no speculation linking him to any teams.

We hate to say Bautista is becoming desperate, but that is the natural conclusion to make, when considering some interesting news from late last week. As per Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun, Peter Gammons reported the right-handed batter’s issues at the plate last season, simply came down to poor eye sight:

"“(Bautista) finally took advice from friends and went and had his eyes checked. And the vision is just what his friends thought: really bad,” Gammons said on MLB Network’s MLB Tonight. “So, now he’s getting used to his glasses — probably contacts.”"

This was met with some suspicion from people both inside and out of the Toronto Blue Jays organisation. They — like most teams — test the vision of all their players, before, during and after the season.

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In short, if something was up with Bautista’s vision, surely the Blue Jays would have picked up on it during last year? Again, we hate to say he’s becoming desperate, but something doesn’t quite add up here.

Regardless, using a Hall of Fame writer to get the word out was a inspired move. If anyone can help a player become more appealing to teams, it’s a person with Gammons’ reputation.

It would come as no surprise if Gammons received his information from Bautista’s agent, Jay Alou. In that respect, Alou is doing everything possible to keep his client relevant and in the minds of teams still in need of more help.

This included talking to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. As per Rotoworld, Alou said:

"“It’s no secret he’s one of the most dedicated players in the game. He takes a lot of pride in staying in shape. His work ethic is contagious to other players.”"

Unfortunately for Bautista, it’s also no secret he’s not the same player he was a couple of years ago. Combined with the fact this has been a particularly difficult offseason for free agents, it’s no wonder he has yet to find a team.

Again though, there must be some team out there which could use the former Pittsburgh Pirate? We refuse to believe the final chapter has been written on one of the more remarkable, unlikely playing careers in the history of professional baseball.

Next: Has the Jays' rebuild already begun?

What’s your take on Bautista and what the future holds for him? Assuming he finds a team, what kind of production are you predicting for him in 2018? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.