Jays try to spark offense with Bautista
Toronto lands infielder from Pittsburgh for player to be named
TORONTO -- With five weeks remaining on the regular-season slate, and hopes of a playoff berth still flickering ever so slightly, the Blue Jays are checking the waiver wire daily in search of offensive help.
On Thursday, Toronto completed a trade for infielder Jose Bautista, whom the club attempted to claim off waivers from Pittsburgh earlier in the week. The Pirates agreed instead to send Bautista to the Blue Jays in exchange for a player to be named.
Bautista is expected to join Toronto on Friday, and he'll likely take on a regular role with the Jays -- his fifth team in as many seasons in the Majors. The majority of Bautista's playing time will likely come at third base, though he can also help out around the infield, in the outfield or as a designated hitter.
Regardless of where Bautista plays, he's likely to be in the lineup on a consistent basis. Bautista instantly becomes Toronto's team leader with 12 home runs this season, providing a slight boost to the Jays' power-starved offense. Toronto is also hoping Bautista can help eradicate some of the club's struggles with left-handed pitching.
"It's just a guy we've liked for a long time," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "Since we've got a month to go, we'll just get as many bats in there as we can get."
The Jays haven't announced a corresponding move to clear room on the active roster for Bautista, opting to wait until the infielder arrives at Rogers Centre. Outfielder Kevin Mench would appear to be the odd man out, though it's also possible that Toronto could consider moving sparsely used infielder David Eckstein.
Adding the 27-year-old Bautista does provide Toronto with some added flexibility, considering that there's still no established return date for third baseman Scott Rolen, who's on the disabled list with an injured left shoulder. The move doesn't necessarily mean that Bautista will take over for utilityman Marco Scutaro as the starting third baseman in Rolen's absence, though.
"I wouldn't say starting third baseman," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "But, it might go that way, because that is his position and he can play that position, and it gives us a chance to also have a full right-handed-hitting team out there against left-handed pitching, if we wanted to."
In 107 games with the Pirates this season, Bautista hit .242 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs, but he was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on Aug. 13. Bautista was relegated to a bench role when the Pirates acquired third baseman Andy LaRoche in a three-team deal with the Red Sox and Dodgers prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The Jays jumped at the chance to obtain Bautista, who has hit .253 with a .363 on-base percentage and a .547 slugging percentage against lefties this season. Toronto has struggled mightily against southpaws, hitting .248 with just 15 homers (ranked last in the Majors) and a .355 slugging percentage (29th).
"We're susceptible to left-handers," Ricciardi said. "We're going to probably face some left-handers down the stretch. We control him for the next few years, so that's helpful, too."
Bautista is under contract for $1.8 million this season, and he's contractually controllable through the 2010 season. Along with Scutaro, shortstop John McDonald and infielder Joe Inglett, Bautista provides another utility option for the Blue Jays next season. Ricciardi said it's up to Gaston to sort out how Bautista will fit in this year.
"Whatever Cito sees best," Ricciardi said. "He was part of the process of getting him in here, so he can fit him in whatever way he sees fit."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.