A little over one month after signing a minor-league contract with the Atlanta Braves, Jose Bautista is a free agent once again. He was officially called up by the club just a few weeks ago. Then on Sunday, he was granted his release by the Braves.
The 15-year veteran hit a double in his very first at-bat in a Braves uniform, but he finished his brief 12-game stint in Atlanta with two home runs, five RBI’s and five hits.
Even though the upstart Braves currently lead their division and own the third-best record in baseball, they couldn’t afford Bautista’s lukewarm production at the plate.
Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke with reporters and explained why the club cut ties with Bautista, declaring Johan Camargo as their everyday third baseman. His numbers aren’t much better than Bautista’s, but opting to play a 24-year-old over a 37-year-old makes all the sense in the world for a team trying to cling to a playoff spot.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) May 20, 2018
Since the Braves couldn’t find playing time for Bautista anymore, the team released him and he’s on the open market once again. That is … if another team is even interested.
By all indications, there were no teams vying for Bautista’s services this past offseason, which is why he didn’t sign a minor-league deal until after the 2018 season had begun.
So, where does the Blue Jays legend go from here? Since he had such difficulty finding a home this year and he was just turfed by the Braves, the prospects don’t look very good. There simply isn’t a market for 37-year-old infielders, which makes one wonder whether retirement is on the horizon for Bautista.
It didn’t seem right for him to walk off into the sunset last year after an illustrious career in a Blue Jays uniform. He owed it to himself to give it one last shot to see if he had any gas left in the tank. It felt like baseball had left Bautista behind, but a few weeks into the 2018 season, another chance arose with his former GM, now in Atlanta.
If teams weren’t lining up to sign Bautista before, they certainly won’t be now. At this age and this stage in his career, perhaps this is it … this is all we’ll see of Joey Bats in a Major League uniform.
There’s no shame in that. The man had one hell of a career. For the longest time, his claim to fame was playing on four different teams in the span of one year in 2004. Fast forward to today, and Bautista is legendary in Toronto sports. He’s no longer infamous for a weird baseball oddity; he’s known for “the bat flip”.
The man will never have to pay for a meal in the city of Toronto ever again. He’s an icon. He’s revered all across Canada, south of the border and in his native country of the Dominican Republic. He’ll go down as one of the best hitters in Blue Jays history.
Just because his playing days could be in the rear-view mirror, doesn’t mean Bautista still can’t have an impact on the game in other ways. Broadcasting is one avenue former players often go down. As one of the game’s most intellectual and cerebral players, Bautista could add a lot of first-hand experience to a baseball broadcast.
This option is potentially a few years down the road, but Joey Bats could even join a team in some sort of coaching capacity. Again, with 15 years of big league experience, Bautista has a wealth of knowledge to share with younger players.
Whatever he decides to do next, whether that be trying to break back into the Major Leagues, or turning the page on the next chapter of his career, Bautista has left an indelible mark on the game of baseball.