He mostly has been a right fielder, and he hasn’t aged well. He had a Baseball-Reference WAR of minus-1.7 last season. By way of comparison, Matt Kemp had a minus-1.3. Going by WAR, the only big-league position player worse than Bautista in 2017 was Albert Pujols.
Which is why Joey Bats was available. This being a minor-league contract, there’s not much risk. So long as Bautista stays at third base, there’s no chance of him cluttering an outfield that’s still without Ronald Acuna Jr. There is a chance, I guess, of him blocking Johan Camargo at third base, though the Braves seem to view Camargo as more a utility infielder than a starter.
We know third base has been an empty chair for the Braves since Chipper Jones rode into the sunset. Heck, even Freddie Freeman took a turn last year. But I’d have run through a hundred names as hot-corner candidates before I’d have hit on Bautista. This is, you’d have to say, thinking outside the ol’ box.
Here we cite the obvious: Alex Anthopoulos knows Joey Bats well. He was Toronto’s general manager. Bautista spent a decade there, hitting 288 homers, authoring one classic – or classless, depending on your view – playoff bat flip and getting slugged by the Rangers’ Roughned Odor the next year in delayed retaliation.
There’s a part of me that finds this intriguing. There’s also a part that figures it won’t amount to much. Remember when Ryan Howard was a Braves’ minor-leaguer? No? There’s a reason. It didn’t last long.