Blue Jays set to add José Bautista to the Level of Excellence
8 months ago
Earlier today, Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi at Sportsnet.ca reported that the Toronto Blue Jays are set to honour former right-fielder José Bautista by adding him to the Level of Excellence on August 12th. This was confirmed by the club shortly after.
The Blue Jays slugger was a shoo-in candidate to be named to the Level of Excellence and is the first player since Roy Halladay in 2018 to be named to the prestigious group of individuals who shaped the Blue Jays franchise for their contributions both on and off the field.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Bautista spent two years at Chipola Junior College before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 20th round of the 2000 MLB Draft. Following the 2003 season, Bautista was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft and made his MLB debut that year, suiting up for four different teams that year through a series of trades and waiver claims (he was traded to the New York Mets but they traded him shortly after he was acquired and never suited up for the Mets).
Blue Jays to add slugger José Bautista to the Level of Excellence
By the end of the year, Bautista was back with the Pirates and received big-league playing time from 2006 to 2008 both in the outfield and at third base. On August 21, 2008, the Pirates traded the right-handed slugger to the Blue Jays in exchange for a player to be named later (Robinson Diaz) in a trade that would forever change the organization’s history.
While he didn’t post spectacular numbers in 2009, his first full season with the Jays, Bautista exploded during the 2010 campaign, finishing the year with a league-leading 54 home runs while also adding 124 RBI to the tune of a .995 OPS. Coming off an All-Star campaign and his first Silver Slugger Award, Bautista only got better in 2011, leading the league again in home runs (43) while also leading the MLB in walks (132), slugging (.608), and OPS (1.056) on his way to another Silver Slugger Award and his second All-Star appearance. The Jays’ right-fielder earned consecutive All-Star appearances from 2010 to 2015, even when wrist and hip injuries limited his 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
Most will remember Bautista for his late-game heroics during the fifth game of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, clubbing a three-run home run during the seventh inning that helped the Blue Jays win and advance to the ALCS while also adding him to Jays’ folklore for his legendary bat flip.
Defensively, Bautista started his Jays career at third base and in the designated hitter spot but in his earlier years, the Dominican product started to move away from the hot corner and took more reps in the corner outfield spots, eventually becoming the club’s full-time right field option in 2011/2012. Known for his rocket of an arm, Bautista had 86 assists from the outfield during his 10 seasons with the Blue Jays.
At the end of the 2017 season, with a rebuild on the horizon for a veteran squad, Bautista left the team via free agency, signing a MiLB deal with the Atlanta Braves for the 2018 season. He would spend that campaign with the Braves, Mets, and Phillies and has not appeared in an MLB game since that season, although he did play for the Dominican Republic at the 2020 Summer Olympics, helping the nation win bronze. In the playoffs, Bautista collected a .243 batting average across the 2015 and 2016 seasons and added six home runs and 16 RBIs while collecting a .994 OPS across five different series.
Bautista and his Contributions to the Blue Jays
Over his ten-year career with the Blue Jays, Bautista finished with a .253/.372/.506 slash line with 1103 hits, 219 doubles, 288 home runs, and 766 RBI while amassing a .878 OPS. He also walked 803 times compared to 948 strikeouts and finished with a 136 OPS+ along with a 38.3 bWAR. He sits first in Blue Jays history in terms of WAR, second in home runs and walks, and third in RBIs and total bases amongst other leaderboard categories.
Congratulations to José Bautista, as this Level of Excellence honour is one truly deserving for a player who did so much for the Blue Jays organization this past decade.
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