Hey, it doesn’t have to be a great era. An era is an era, and that counts even for the Twins’ Nick Punto:
No Twins offseason would be complete without a Nick Punto discussion.
Some of us were convinced he would be the final puzzle piece, as General Manager Bill Smith assembled the spring training roster. Punto is still a free agent, but from all indications, the Twins won’t be bringing him back.
Gleeman and I chat all day and often I’ll ping him with something like “Hey — I’m making a joke — give me the name of some random weak hitter who is inexplicably esteemed by many so I can use him in the punchline.” His response is almost always “Punto — but maybe that’s too obvious.”
Punto was useful the couple of times his average was high, but he is a career .247/.321/.322 hitting utility infielder — albeit an overused one — who has made $4 million a year recently. That’s a guy you cut bait on a long time ago in favor of a veteran who will take a minor league deal and maybe make a million bucks, max. It took the Twins a couple of years to figure that out, but now they have.
Fare thee well, Nick.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.