Many, many Spring Trainings ago, the Toronto Blue Jays traveled to the play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a Grapefruit League double header. The Buccos utility player Jose Bautista sat out the first game, but went insane in the second game gathering four hits including a wind-aided Bradenton bomb.
A few months later Bautista, who had been demoted to Triple-A, was sent to the Blue Jays for Robinzon Diaz. The Jays Scott Rolen had gone down with an injury and the Jays were looking for a player to fill his shoes without breaking the bank.
Or as Bautista reflected last year on the five year anniversary of what became the worst trade in Pirates history:
"“I was fortunate enough to come to an organization that decided to give me a chance and an opportunity to play every day without having to worry about results.”"
Yeh, who wouldn’t want a gig like that, right? Just play Jose. And that’s what Bautista did.
The now 33-year old kept doing what he did in Pittsburgh which was be a replacement level player getting nearly $3 million a year. With the Jays he hit .214/.237/.411 for the remainder of the season. After the season, the Jays nearly gave up on him citing he was expensive for what he was as a utility player. But they rode it out. However in 2009, it was more of the same with a .235/.349/.408 and 13 homers.
"““No one thought Bautista was even an everyday player,” GM Alex Anthopoulos admitted, “let alone a frontline player."
It’s hard to imagine that anyone knew what Bautista would become. It seems to be the inspiration for every Major League team to try and find the next Jose Bautista. We are willing to bet it will never happen again–finding a player that hits homers in the teens blossoming into a 50 plus home run hitter a couple of years later? Yeh, good luck GM’s everywhere.
But as everyone knows, the Jays did get Bautista to listen. Or maybe Bautista was simply able to understand what coaches had been telling him all along. Nonetheless, Buatista hit 54 homers in 2010 and Bucs GM Neal Huntington must shake his head everyday when he considers trading a player that has become the face of the Blue Jays, maybe even the face of Toronto.
But there is one thing to consider Pirates fans. Jose Bautista has hit a lot of home runs, but he has never taken one swing in postseason play. All Bautista has done is simply hit a lot of beautiful, towering, glorious bombs like this one in the Grapefruit opener against Philly.
Of course Bautista also has created a lot of angst among Pirates fans about the trade none of them would have ever made and of course, none can believe Huntington made it. Sort of like the 150,000 fans that were at the wild card game at PNC Park last fall.
And what has become of the bar trivia answer most likely to stump your friends on a Friday night? Robinzon Diaz played 16 games for the Pirates and went on to have a solid career… in the minor leagues last season with the Nashville Sounds.
The look on Diaz’s face says all there is to really say about the Jose Bautista trade.
Feb 27, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Brewers catcher Robinzon Diaz (66) looks on against the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports