Mets consider Jose Bautista to shore up injury-ravaged outfield
The Mets’ need for a right-handed outfield bat with power has team officials interested in veteran slugger Jose Bautista, industry sources told The Post on Monday.
Bautista, 37, was released by the Braves on Sunday after going 5-for-35 (.143) with two homers in 12 games. Bautista, a six-time All-Star, was playing third base for the Braves, but would likely be used primarily in the outfield if he joined the Mets.
The Indians are among the other teams that could be interested in Bautista, who went unsigned the entire offseason after hitting .203 with 23 homers for the Blue Jays in 2017. Bautista arrived to the Blue Jays in 2008, when Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi was Toronto’s general manager.
The Mets are thin on outfield depth, following the toe injury that sent Juan Lagares to the disabled list on Friday. Lagares will undergo surgery to repair the plantar plate of the left big toe and likely miss the rest of the season.
With Lagares out and Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list with a strain of the right hip flexor, the Mets have employed a lefty-swinging outfield of Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce.
Phillip Evans was recently recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to give the Mets a right-handed option in the outfield. Wilmer Flores can also play outfield if needed, but team officials would prefer to avoid that scenario.
The Mets entered play with a brutal .603 OPS against left-handed pitching. Among the outfielders, Bruce had a .587 OPS against lefties and Nimmo had a .516 mark.
Lagares’ loss came as a gut-punch to the Mets because he was having his best season offensively. Lagares had a .339/.375/.390 slash line and had emerged as a dependable pinch-hitting option for Mickey Callaway by going 3-for-12 (.250) with two RBIs in that role.
The Mets are so stretched for depth at the minor league level they have been playing with four outfielders and employing an eight-man bullpen since Lagares was placed on the DL.
Bautista had his best seasons in 2010 and ’11, when he bashed 97 homers combined for the Blue Jays. As recently as 2016 he posted an .817 OPS for Toronto.
But his production dipped noticeably last year, leaving him available through the winter. He signed a minor league deal with the Braves in April and was promoted to the major league roster this month.
In releasing Bautista, Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos cited the difficulty of finding at-bats for the veteran slugger, as the team felt more comfortable with Johan Camargo at third base.
Bautista would be a low-risk, potential high-upside addition, but would also give the Mets another older player. As it stands, the Mets have 30-somethings in Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Frazier, Jose Reyes, Bruce and Cespedes among position players. Of that group, Cespedes and Frazier are on the DL — the latter is rehabbing a strained left hamstring that has kept him sidelined since May 8.
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