You may know that, after a 12-year absence, baseball is returning for the Olympics this summer. As part of that there will be some Olympic qualifiers played at the end of this month in Florida. Amateurs and players who are not on teams are obviously eligible to play. Likewise, players who are on 40-man rosters of big league teams but who are not on the major league roster are permitted to take part in the qualifiers.
Today Jeff Passan of ESPN has an article up about the Dominican Republic’s team as it heads into qualifiers. Among those players who are on the 40-man but not on a big league roster who plans to take part is Wander Franco, the top prospect in the Rays’ system and, indeed, in all of baseball. Not a shock, really. He’d be a great addition to the D.R.’s Olympic team.
A bit more surprising: José Bautista, who has not played in the bigs since 2018. Only a bit more surprising, though, as he can still probably hit pretty well against the lesser competition in the Olympic games (Major League players will not be taking part). But here’s the real surprising part:
Bautista is expected to play first base, a position he manned 30 times in more than 1,650 major league games during which he hit 344 home runs and drove in nearly 1,000 runs. He last played in the major leagues in 2018, though he spent this winter working out as a pitcher in hopes of returning as a two-way player, sources said.
That seems pretty far-fetched, but on Twitter Passan added this:
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.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 2, 2020
“@STR0” is Marcus Stroman.
I doubt Bautista will actually make it to a big league roster, but given that rosters now allow for 26 players, and given that there are now special rules for two-way players, it’s not the most insane thing to contemplate. I bet teams will send some scouts to see him in the qualifier to see if the bat is anywhere close to serviceable anymore and, if it is, they may call him in for a bullpen session.