Friday, February 18, 2011

Tumblin' dice: Assessing risk and the JoBau deal

Signing any player to a contract is a risk, and with more money and more years, you only magnify that risk.

Add to that the lack of clear evidence based on past performance, and the backlash amongst some of us against the José Bautista deal hopefully seems less like smarmy snark directed from the back of the class. We can't speak for Dustin or Drew or Stoeten or others who've raised concerns about the deal or questioned the urgency of signing this now (and they can speak for themselves just fine, we're sure), but there is something about the balance of risk that Alex Anthopoulos has taken in this deal that left us uneasy.

(And not to bore you with the plight of the blogger, but it's weird how we spend years getting accused of being on Rogers' payroll - I wish! - and how we're apologists for everything they do, and the moment we look with hesitation on a deal, people write us off as cynics. Cripes.)

Now that the deal is done, we're left trying to piece together the rationale. And with a full night's sleep and some time spent thinking in a manner that we assume AA might think, we're coming to a point where it's starting to come to us.

While we still more or less agree with Parkes' recent point that the Jays needn't have made a move early on Bautista, we're rethinking the equation and coming to this point: The Jays were set on this guy, and not just potential value.

What we mean is that the notion of acquiring value back for Bautista later this year in the form of returns from a trade or draft picks was less appealing to the Jays' brain trust than working through to achieve the best value that they could in order to retain the player they had.

It's not exactly "we want Bautista, whatever the cost". But certainly, they were set on this particular asset. It wasn't his level of production that they wanted...it was him.

(And maybe it would be too cynical to tell a bunch of baseball fanatics that we really shouldn't start naming the animals on the farm or getting attached to them, because those attachments are half the reason we're here writing, and you're here reading.)

Once you set it in your mind that the Jays wanted the man himself, then the timing starts to make sense. Whatever his performance in the first few months, the Jays were going to start to lose leverage in their ability to retain him. If it's June 2nd and Bautista has 10 homers, would the Jays have been able to grind him down to a three-year deal? And if he has a three-homer day on June 3rd, and hits five more within two weeks, and suddenly he's back on a 40-homer pace, does the price go back up? Could they get one type of prospect on June 2nd, and a whole other level on July 1st?

And would they have wanted to play that game all year?

It's pretty clear at this point that the Jays would not have retained Bautista had they not moved before this season. We love what he produced last season, and we're really quite happy to have him back in the fold. We share your enthusiasm. (For criminy's sake, we compared him to Lolita and us to Humbert Humbert last Spring.)

But know that this is signing is a risk. They say that fortune favours the bold, and this sort of deal may be as bold a move as Alex Anthopoulos has made since he's arrived. By giving significant money to Bautista for several years, he's begun to sketch out for us what the team will look like four or five years down the road. While some other deals looked as though they had an eye towards the future, none did as much to solidify the roster's composition for the 2014/2015 seasons.

One way or another, José Bautista is going to be central to the conversation five years from now.

8 comments:

PdcD said...

I'm just glad the Bautista Beard is back.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Excellent post. Very well thought out and presented. And you hit all the right notes on the balance between concern and optimism. In some ways, this deal is smarter than the Wells deal. For one, it's not as long or as rich. And for another, Wells was somewhat of a known entity when that deal was made. I do not, nor cannot believe that Bautista's season was a fluke. He's a legitimate power threat and his ability to take a walk is something Wells never did and that adds value in and of itself. I choose optimism on this signing. Yeah, it's a risk. But it's one that could pay off high dividends.

MK Piatkowski said...

I've come around to thinking that this is just as much sending a message to the rest of the players - play well and you will be rewarded. I suspect as players started reporting there were conversations about how JoBau was being treated. Why else would they start negotiating after an off-season of nothing?

Greg W said...

After hearing AA on Prime Time, I can see 2 things that make this decision one that I think is better for AA to have made that any of us in the blogosphere.

1. AA lost sleep over what he should do, before he did it. I don't think any of u posting ever gave it enough time or effort to keep us up at night. He's a smart guy, he spent a lot more time weighing it than I have, certainly.

2. Jose Bautista is an actual person, who exists outside of RotoLeagues and Baseballrefence.com, and I have no idea who that guy really is. The Blue Jay organization does, though, and that's clearly worth something to them. If I am going to believe in AA and the Plan, I kinda have to get on board with the stuff that I can't get out of OBP and WAR.

I'm hoping for another fun season, its kind of nice to know that 3 or four guys who start this one, might be around at the end of 2012, too.

Greg W

Chad said...

Blogger reactions just tend to confirm why they are bloggers and, with regard to professional sports, little else.

Anonymous said...

An Ottawa question Tao.

Do you know if 1310 will still be broadcasting Jays games after the switch to the all news format?

Andrew said...

For anyone that needs to feel better: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/could-jose-bautista-be-better-in-2011/

I don't think Jose will really improve upon his epic 2010, but I think his floor in 2011 is around .250/.350/.500. Throw in his defensive versatility (which could end up being a major asset with Brett Lawrie's future position undecided), and all the intangibles and I think four years and $56 million beyond 2011 will seem reasonable a year from now.

Salty Cod said...

Good post, I tend to agree with MK above...This signing means something to the team, they have watched the Jays shed contracts for the last couple of years (rightfully so), but this can be seen as the first real move towards the future...I know I'm pumped (and 14 million a is not a terrible number if he shites the bed, AA has gotten rid of much worse contracts)...