Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
On January 17th, the team announced that they had re-signed Jose Bautista to a new contract, a deal that paid him $18M in 2017 and had a mutual option for 2018, as well as a vesting option for 2019 that would kick in automatically if he played a combined 300 games in the two previous seasons. The 300-game incentive was designed in the hopes he would stay healthy for two full seasons. ‘Healthy’ was probably the kindest thing that could be said about Bautista’s 2017. He spent no time on the DL, playing in 157 games. However, in those games he struck out a career-worst 24.8% of the time, and set a new team record of 170 strikeouts in a season.
April got off to a slow start for Bautista. He didn’t hit his first home run of the season until the 23rd – a three-run shot in extra innings that would be the winning run against the Angels. He finished the month hitting .178 with an on-base percentage of .309. He looked to be turning things around in May, slashing .317/.412/.644 with nine home runs. From the 15th to the 24th, he had a minor hot streak: 16 hits in 33 at-bats, including two homers and three doubles, plus five walks. May was also his highest monthly RBI total, with 21.
It was all downhill from there: his June batting average was .200 in 100 at-bats, with just six extra-base hits (two doubles and four home runs). July was even worse for Bautista, as he hit .162 in 99 at-bats, with just two homers. His walk total of 15 was one higher than the previous month. In August, he hit all of .158, with four home runs and four doubles. All four home runs came in a five-game span.
Despite a five-game hot streak from September 4-10, during which he went 8-for-23 with three doubles and two home runs, Bautista hit .189 in the last month of the season. This was due in part to a six-game hitless streak, during which he reached base only twice. The streak was snapped when he went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI in the last home game of the season. His final home run of the year was on September 27th in Boston. In the final game of the year, he had a single and a sac fly. He finished the year with a slash line of .203/.308/.366, 23 home runs, and 27 doubles. He struck out twice as often as he walked.
In spite of his lackluster performance at the plate, this season saw Bautista reach several important milestones in team history. He became just the second Blue Jay (after Carlos Delgado) to hit 20 or more home runs in 8 consecutive seasons. His 92 runs scored this year moved him into second place on the all-time franchise runs list, and thanks to 65 RBI his career total in Toronto reached 766, which puts him third all-time on that list. He has also now hit 288 home runs in a Blue Jays uniform, which is the second-most all-time.
The Blue Jays declined the mutual option for 2018, so Bautista is now a free agent.
Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: D
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