Jose Bautista isn’t ready to call it quits just yet. The Phillies outfielder told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he still intends to suit up in 2019, and hopes to do so for a contending team. His contract is set to expire at the end of the regular season, at which point he’ll test free agency for the third time this year.
It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for the 37-year-old, however, and finding a home among the league’s top contenders may prove more difficult than expected. Bautista currently carries a cumulative .199/.340/.370 batting line, 12 home runs, and a .711 OPS through 385 plate appearances for the Braves, Mets, and Phillies, and while he’s found the most success in Philadelphia this year, he’s far removed from the 40+ homer, .250+ average slugger of days gone by.
That said, offense isn’t everything, and Rosenthal points out how valuable Bautista has been to NL East teams over the last few months, both in his defensive versatility and the mentorship he’s provided to younger players on the roster. This season alone, he’s seen games at first, second, and third base, as well as both outfield corners — showcasing the kind of flexibility that may make him an intriguing addition to another major league roster next year.
We wrote a lot about Casey Kelly on this site circa 2010-12.
It was understandable. Kelly was a big-time draftee for the Red Sox and famously split time as a shortstop and a pitcher in the minors, with some people even wondering if he could do it full time. The Sox put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, as he became the top overall prospect in the Boston organization as a pitcher. He then made news when he was sent to San Diego — along with Anthony Rizzo — in the famous Adrian Gonzalez trade in December 2010.
He made his big league debut for the Padres in late August of 2012, holding a pretty darn good Atlanta Braves team scoreless for six innings, striking out four. He would pitch in five more games in the season’s final month to not very good results but missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 thanks to Tommy John surgery.
He wouldn’t make it back to the bigs until 2015 — pitching only three games after being converted to a reliever — before the Padres cut him loose, trading him to the Braves for Christian Bethancourt who, like a younger Kelly, the Padres thought could be a two-way player, catching and relieving. That didn’t work for him either, but I digress.
Kelly made a career-high ten appearances for a bad Braves team in 2016, was let go following the season and was out of the majors again in 2017 after the Cubs released him a couple of months after he failed to make the team out of spring training. He resurfaced with the Giants this past season for seven appearances. The Giants cut him loose last month.
Now Kelly’s journey takes him across the ocean. He announced on Instagram last night that he’s signed with the LG Twins in the Korean Baseball Organization. He seems pretty happy and eager about it in his little video there. I don’t blame him, as he’ll make $1 million for them, as opposed to staying here and almost certainly winding up in a Triple-A rotation making $60K or whatever it is veteran minor leaguers make.
This was probably way too many words to devote to a journeyman heading to play in Korea, but we so often forget top prospects once they fail to meet expectations. We also tend to forget all of the Tommy John casualties, focusing instead on the Tommy John successes. As such, I wanted to think a bit about Casey Kelly. I hope things work out well for him in the KBO and a baseball player who once seemed so promising can, after a delay, find success of his own.