PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies did not acquire Jose Bautista from the Mets to revive the slugger who once hit 54 home runs in a season. Instead, Bautista boarded a flight from the Chicago to Philadelphia on Tuesday because one more veteran bat with the potential to come up with a
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies did not acquire Jose Bautista from the Mets to revive the slugger who once hit 54 home runs in a season. Instead, Bautista boarded a flight from the Chicago to Philadelphia on Tuesday because one more veteran bat with the potential to come up with a big hit won't hurt the young Phillies' push for their first postseason appearance since 2011.
"The role could be right-handed bat off the bench. It could be a start in the outfield. We could deploy him against [any] left-handed pitcher in the league and have a high degree of confidence that he is going to have a good at-bat for us," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "He's going to be a veteran presence in the dugout and in the clubhouse.
"I see a major part of his role being how intelligent he is. He sees the game differently than anyone we have on our roster right now. He's very good at picking up tells and figuring out which of our pitchers and opposing pitchers are tipping, and he's going to share that with our clubhouse."
The price was not high: the Phils will send the Mets a player to be named or cash for Bautista. To make room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Mark Leiter, who coincidentally allowed a grand slam to Bautista earlier this month, was designated for assignment. Bautista was in Philadelphia for Tuesday night's 5-4 loss vs. the Nationals, and struck out swinging in a pinch-hit appearance for Aaron Nola in the seventh. To make room for him on the active roster, catcher Andrew Knapp was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Bautista, 37, signed with the Braves in April before being released a month later. The Mets picked him up, and in 83 games with New York he hit .204 with nine home runs and a .718 OPS. His performance fluctuated; he posted a .921 OPS in his first 39 games but a .585 OPS in 44 games thereafter.
The move comes just a few days before the Aug. 31 playoff roster deadline, meaning Bautista is eligible to participate should the Phillies make the postseason.
"The guy's done it in really big situations," left fielder Rhys Hoskins said. "He's been through meaningful September baseball before. Obviously, track record and his pedigree in the game is one of the best in this clubhouse. ... [He's] someone who has been through it before and can kind of guide us along the way."
The Phillies have now welcomed six newcomers in the last month. Before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos and Aaron Loup joined the team. Since, waiver deals have brought in Justin Bour, Luis Avilan and Bautista, essentially a right-handed version of Bour, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left oblique without a timetable for return. Both are powerful bench options.
So, could team chemistry be why some of these additions were made for a first-place team that now sits 3 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East? Kapler admitted it's a factor.
"It's going to take a little bit of time to have that piece acclimate to our environment and have our club acclimate to the new pieces," Kapler said. "But we have power here. It's not just something that happens and we watch happen. We are going to take control of the chemistry and make it great down the stretch."
It remains unlikely the Phillies will add a starting pitcher before Friday. They did not seriously pursue pitchers like Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ or Chris Archer before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline because they like their rotation. General manager Matt Klentak said Monday that's still the case.
"The roster construction right now," Kapler said, "is strong."
The Pennsylvania SPCA will host Puppapalooza this Thursday from 6-9 p.m. ET at Morgan's Pier in Philadelphia, and Hoskins, Scott Kingery and Roman Quinn were among the Phillies players who took a few moments before batting practice Tuesday to meet some of the dogs that will be available for adoption at the event. More information is available at pspca.org/puppapalooza.
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.