Jose Bautista has played exclusively right field this season and robbed Jordan Schafer of a home run out there earlier this week, but yesterday the Blue Jays announced that they’re moving him back to third base as soon as Monday.
Bautista started 45 games at third base last season and was initially slated to return there this year, but the Blue Jays decided during spring training to give Edwin Encarnacion a shot at the hot corner instead. That didn’t work out very well and Toronto third basemen have hit just .177 overall.
Top prospect Brett Lawrie would have gotten the call to step in at third base already, but he’s been slow to recover from a hand injury at Triple-A. In the meantime Bautista volunteered to play wherever the team needs him most and this move allows the Blue Jays to get another good bat like Travis Snider or Eric Thames into the lineup in the outfield.
Next month Bautista will start the All-Star game as an outfielder.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.