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Ferguson: Regrettably, Bautista's time has come with Jays

Scott Ferguson
9/6/2013 11:14:18 AM
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Earlier in the season, I thought there was no way the Blue Jays would or should trade Jose Bautista in the off-season. After all, he's an established slugger, a face of the franchise and though he may have slipped a bit in this department, is still a team leader.

I may have to take a mulligan now on that line of thinking. I took a look at nine of the most prominent Blue Jays outfielders and how their careers diminished with age, and the stats were pretty sobering. Six of the nine were finished with baseball at 34 years of age or younger, one is still playing at 34 as a shadow of what he once was, and the other two stuck around until they were 38 years old. We'll get to those players in a moment, but first Bautista.

Jose is going to be 33 years old in October. This season and last, he's had to shut it down due to injuries and has missed September in 2012 and 2013. While his power numbers are still more than respectable, they're nowhere close to the 54 he smacked in his club record-setting season. "Joey Bats" still has a very team-friendly contract, paying him $14 million for each of the next two seasons with a club option of $14 million for 2016. That would also make him attractive to other teams.

This week, Argos CEO Chris Rudge confirmed on TSN Drive with Dave Naylor that the "Double Blue" basically had a new five-year lease agreement in place with Rogers Centre. That effectively means there will be no installation of natural grass over the duration of that agreement.  Continuing to play on artificial turf isn't going to help Bautista either, considering the career longevity of some of the best outfielders ever to play for the Jays. Through the 80's the Blue Jays sported the "Million Dollar Outfield" of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield.

Bell finished his career in 1993 with the Chicago White Sox; a wonky knee effectively forcing him out of the game. Moseby played his last major league game with Detroit and was done at 31, while Barfield - he of the "Golden Arm" and power bat - was finished at 32.

It doesn't end there. Dial ahead two generations of Blue Jays outfielders after the World Series glory years. Shawn Green, who starred with the Blue Jays, was dealt to the Dodgers and bounced around to a couple of more clubs before seeing his career end at 34. Jose Cruz Jr.'s run in the majors also ended at 34, as did that of speedy left fielder Shannon Stewart. Do you see a trend here?

Vernon Wells is still playing in basically a platoon role now with the Yankees at 34. However, he's not anywhere near the player he was in his Blue Jays prime.

There are two exceptions as far as long-time Blue Jays are concerned. Joe Carter left the Blue Jays after the '97 season at age 37, signing with Baltimore as a free agent. 1997 was his last 100 RBI season. He played one more season split between the O's and the Giants, batting a combined .260 with 18 homers and 63 runs batted in.

The other who stretched his career out to 38 was speed flyhawk Devon White. He parted company with the Jays after the '95 season at age 32. He went to Florida and won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997 - his second year with the club - then moved around from Arizona to the L.A Dodgers and finally Milwaukee where he played his final season at 38 and batted .277 with 14 homers, 47 RBI's and stole 18 bases.

I'm not saying Jose Bautista can't bounce back but based on this unscientific study, the odds are better that his numbers will remain static or diminish further and he will continue to have physical issues.

The Blue Jays need to upgrade their starting pitching. Bautista still has enough sock and caché to bring back a decent return. The old cliché in sports is that it's better to trade a player a year too soon rather than a year too late. Regrettably, I think Jose Bautista's time has come.
 
During his brief stint in Toronto, Eric Thames was one of my favourites. He was an engaging personality who seemed to have a lot of skills. He had his ups and down defensively in left field, but I always thought he was going to make it. On Thursday of this week, he was claimed on waivers by Houston from Baltimore. So in just over a year, Thames has been part of four organizations - the Blue Jays, Seattle (Steve Delabar trade), Baltimore and now the Astros. Here's hoping he finds a home in Houston.

An unusual waiver pick-up the same day was Washington claiming long-time minor league slugger Mauro Gomez from the Blue Jays. Gomez had a solid year at Buffalo but seems more likely to wind up with the Nationals' Syracuse farm club next year than with the big club.




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