BY DILLON ATKINSON, @DAtkinsonOU
While at the Winter Meetings, Orioles GM Dan Duquette spoke with the representatives of free-agent right fielder, Jose Bautista. However, it seems like that conversation ended rather quickly, as Duquette told Bautista's camp that the Orioles are not interested in signing their client, mainly because of one reason.
Yes, Bautista is cocky. Yes, he and the Orioles haven't gotten along over the past four-or-so years. Yes, a good amount of Orioles fans dislike him. But to use the fans as your primary excuse of not negotiating with the former Blue Jays right fielder is weak and unprofessional.
If Duquette cited baseball and business reasons for why he doesn't want to pursue Bautista, that would've sat perfectly fine with me. Let's look at some of those reasons:
- Bautista is 36-years old
- Bautista is coming off the worst season of his career since 2008, when he was with the Pirates
- Bautista comes with injury concerns
- Bautista has draft pick compensation attached to him
- Bautista is not a good defender and probably fits better in a designated hitter's role
- Bautista is probably going to cost too much
So, if Duquette would've pulled any of these cards to argue why Bautista doesn't fit, he would have a legitimate case. That's not to say that Bautista won't have a bounce-back year, because even with 2016 being his worst season as a Blue Jay, he was still productive offensively. His unimpressive .234 batting average was made up for with a high .366 on-base percentage and 22 homers. No matter what team signs Bautista, though, it's going to be a risk. It may be a risk worth taking for one club, however.
I just don't understand why Duquette would use the fans as an excuse, especially considering all the plausible other potential reasons mentioned above. Also, I've never seen Duquette care about the fans' opinion this much until now. The fans wanted Nick Markakis back, but that didn't happen. A lot of the fans don't like Ryan Flaherty, yet he still has a job with the O's.
I'd be willing to bet that most fans wouldn't like a signing of Bautista off the bat, but the boos would turn to cheers if he produced in an O's uniform. In the end, what Orioles fans truly want is a World Series Championship; and the taste of victory wouldn't be any less sweet if one of the roster spots of that championship team was occupied by a player who was hated by Orioles fans for multiple years. Bautista is cocky, along with a bunch of other words that I can't say. But you know who also fits that description? Manny Machado. And Baltimore loves him because he's really good at baseball. He literally intentionally threw a bat at someone, but Orioles fans easily look beyond that because he produces. If Bautista rocked the black and orange and produced in Baltimore, the fans would love it. And you know what would be icing on the cake? Bautista hitting a walk-off homer at Camden Yards, against the Blue Jays, with one massive bat flip.
So why now, Dan? I'm not pushing for the Orioles to negotiate with Bautista and his representatives. I'm not saying I want him in Baltimore. But Duquette's explanation for being uninterested in pursuing the free agent slugger is embarrassing, weak, and even potentially incorrect.