Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The JoBau Extension Predicament

We'd spent most of the Winter hoping and wishing and praying for the announcement of some sort of deal between the Jays and José Bautista that would buy out his arbitration and keep the newly-fashioned King of Swing in Toronto for the next few years.

But then, over a couple (or six) beers with The Score's Getting Blanked baseball-blogger-in-chief Dustin Parkes a week or so back, we came around to his way of thinking: That this wasn't urgent, that the Jays could wait this out, and that they were in a better bargaining position than people thought.

By taking the 2011 season to get a better sense of what JoBau has to offer over the next few years, the Jays would have avoided a situation in which Bautista turns into a pumpkin, and they end up on the hook for a biggish deal to a guy who is a 25/85/.815 guy for the next few years. (And while we have a lot of faith in the adjustments that Bautista made last season, we have some worry that the rest of the league will have spent the offseason figuring out how to pitch him and where the holes may be in his swing.)

The downside of waiting is that Bautista may follow up his otherworldly 2010 with another insane year of 50-plus bombs, find himself in the position to get real paid, and take off, leaving Toronto in the worst case with either draft picks or whatever they could get for him at the trade deadline.

The upside is if Bautista gets hurt or flames out, you're not left with several years left on a significant deal that cuts into your payroll flexibility just as the team is ready to emerge into a legitimate contender. (And need we remind you of the deal that the Jays unloaded in recent weeks, and how that may have impacted on their payroll?)

There are lots of reasons for us to be enthused by the delay that was granted on the arbitration hearing, and the potential a long term deal. Tangibly, Bautista had one of the most offensive seasons in the history of the franchise, and while his track record of that level of excellence is sparse, it's at least feasible to conceive of him putting up WARs above 4.0 for the next three years.

Intangibly speaking, there is Bautista's role as bridging figure between the Anglophones and the Hispanophones within the locker room, and his ability to be a "leader" without having to campaign for the role amongst the press corps, reiterating his willingness to take on that role long after he should have assumed it anyways.

(Yes, we're looking at you Aaron Hill. You can leave your copy of Vernon's "best shape of my life" talking notes in the locker room as well, because we don't need to hear those recycled by you either.)

If the Jays and Bautista come to an agreement for four years or less at an annual salary of $14 million or less, we could live with it, and not fret for how it might derail what has been a pretty sharp and astute track taken by Alex Anthopoulos towards building a long-term contender. Moreover, it would be fun to consider four productive years with JoBau in the middle of the Jays' success.

Just so long as he plays third base along the way.

17 comments:

Salty Cod said...

Just get this done...I honestly could care less what prospects he may bring in at the trade deadline. His contact will not break the bank and sooner or later you have to show you actually want to win. This is a start...

R.A. Wagman said...

I think Bautista will taper off to being a 35+ HR guy. I did a study on him on my blog recently (section203), and found that the main difference between Bautista 2010 and previous was simply turning strikeouts to homers. Meaning, these days, when he takes a mighty rip, he is more likely to crush the ball than to crush air, as in the past. That suggests tyhat the swing revamping may indeed be the secret to his success.

Ian - BJH said...

All I have to say is ... pay the man. There won't be another albatross contract delved out by the Blue Jays, so the fear of this turning into a Vernon Wells situation is slim to none.

I'd rather take the chance with Jose Bautista than pin all our hopes on the up and coming prospects. Plus, there would be nothing worse than watching him sign with the Yankees and then hit 30 home runs for the next 3-4 seasons.

Tao of Stieb said...

"All I have to say is ... pay the man."

You know, people said the same thing about Vernon Wells...

Anonymous said...

We could pay the man for all the reasons above, and if we've learned anything from the Wells exchange, it's that there ain't no contract bad enough that AA can't exterminate. Go Bombtista! (Love, Latte)

Ty said...

If the Jays' contract with Bautista is the same kind of thing they gave Lind and Hill - full of club options that allow them to cut ties if he somehow falls flat on his face after a couple of years - that would be awesome. It's easy to assume that Bautista wouldn't sign such a contract, but I really wouldn't be surprised to see AA pull it off somehow.

Salty Cod said...

Worst case scenario now is for jays sign JBau to a 4/55 and he does not live up to expectations, this deal will still not kill the jays financially. And you know it's going to be a 4-5 year deal with an op out after 2 anyways. That's just how AA structures deals. I can’t see how the jays lose?

Ian - BJH said...

Tao, I admit I've got the blinders on here, but I just want to have one Blue Jays T-shirt in my collection that doesn't have an former Blue Jays name on the back.

mike in boston said...

he's worth the risk given the other aspects of his game (defense, positional flexibility, good OBP, club house leader). that is why the VW comparisons are inapt.

do you want Bautista as a centre piece when this team makes a run in 2012 or 2013? if yes, then sign him to 3 years + options and get it over with. if no, then let him walk at the end of 2011 and collect the picks. i would say yes, he can be part of a contending team, and upgrades can be made elsewhere.

Ty said...

Agreed Mike, and his flexibility shouldn't be understated. The Jays can make upgrades wherever they're available because JBau can play any of 4 different positions in the field or even DH if that ever becomes necessary. He'll never be in anybody's way.

Tao of Stieb said...

Actually, I was going to mention his versatility, as I think that IS an important aspect of his value. If he can play 1st or LF or RF (or who the hell knows...2B?), then it will allow the Jays to not feel blocked in at positions as they move forward.

And no, I don't think that RF is his best position, as boner-inducing as baserunner kills are.

Chad said...

Luckily, no blogger, not even one I like as much as Tao, is making this deal.

QJays said...

There are plenty of reasons to like JB, but there are no reasons that I see to take the risk. You can compare JB to 100 different players if you want -- the point is that you don't really have a sense of what his value is because he lacks a track record, and so the Jays should wait and see what it is.
By paying, the worse case scenario is paying way too much for X years.
By waiting, the worse case scenario is either he mashes and the best the Jays get is draft picks (which AA can pre-empt by trading him for much more mid-season), or he doesn't mash and the Jays probably still get the draft picks. Or maybe the Jays actually sign him to a reasonable contract where the risk is less but the cost is more. All have less upside, but nowhere near the downside of paying now.
Imagine for one minute that JB was still a Pirate and the Pirates suddenly tied up 40 or 50 million on the guy - you'd probably just laugh at them (if you even believe he isn't doing PEDs, since he'd be on a different team). The problem is that we all watched those bombs and felt good when the Jays won ball games because of them.
I just think we need to imagine this as if it wasn't the Jays, and what would make the most sense for a team in their financial and competitive position. To me, that wouldn't be committing to anything much above the dollars you'd pay in Arb for one extra year (i.e. Hamilton), and if that doesn't get it done, then it isn't done.

Dr. Pooks said...

While it would be nice if AA could secure some team-friendly team options such as in the Hill, Lind and A. Gon contracts of late, its probably misguided to compare these with any potential J-Bau deal.

Hill and Lind had many arb-yrs to buy out, and little leverage (ie. becoming a free agent anytime soon). And any team options with recent FAs (J.Molina, A.Gon, any of the RPs signed) were either bit players or people coming off so-so yrs.

J-Bau is itching for a payday and has the recent numbers to back it up. It's probably naive to think AA is going to pull the wool over his eyes.

Robert said...

I have no problem with them waiting for JoBau's season this year. I'm sorry, but 54 HR is not gonna happen again, and I'll be surprised if even 25 happens again this year. You can't pay through the moon every time a player has a career year, which last year will most certainly be for JoBau...

Chad said...

That's where you're wrong, Robert. For example, Brady Anderson had loads of 50 HR seasons. See, right here on Baseball Referen...oh. Nevermind.

Anonymous said...

its a done deal now...5 years, 65 million with a team option at 13M...