The New York Mets continued adding to their collection of players who were great four years ago today when they signed outfielder Jose Bautista to a one year contract, MetsBlog.com reports. Bautista, who was 5 for 35 with two homers before being released by the Atlanta Braves last week, signed a big league deal and will be available off the bench for the Mets on Tuesday. The Mets sent Phillip Evans back to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Bautista on the active roster.
With how banged up the Mets’ roster is, this really isn’t a terrible move. Bautista is done as an impact player, but he is still a big league outfielder, which isn’t the case for guys like Evans and Wilmer Flores. The move is a league minimum deal, so there is little financial risk for the Mets in the deal. The issue will be determining how much playing time the Mets give to Bautista, who looked shot in his two week stint as the Braves’ starting third baseman.
The problem, as we pointed out earlier today, is that the Mets tend not to use guys like Bautista as veteran bats off the bench. Playing Bautista as the fourth outfielder, with most of his at bats coming against left handed pitching, would be a perfectly reasonable strategy for a guy on the tail end of his career. The problem is that the Mets have a history of taking low risk guys and handing them starting jobs to the point that they drag the team down if they don’t perform (see James Loney, the Gary Sheffield experiment in 2009, etc). Until Yoenis Cespedes returns, the Mets’ starting outfield should be Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Jay Bruce. If the Mets decide to give Bautista regular at bats ahead of Nimmo, who is the team’s best fit as a leadoff hitter and a solid defender, that is simply a sign that they don’t know how to manage the assets on their roster. Bautista should play only against lefties and to give people days off until he shows that he still has some consistent ability left. If that isn’t the case, it’s simply another example of the Mets trying to cash a lottery ticket they found on the ground and hoping to hit the jackpot.