Monday, January 17, 2011

For Bautista the Salary Arbitration Bell Tolls

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Soon the bell will toll for the six remaining players on the Blue Jays roster who have yet to work out a deal prior to Tuesday's deadline.

I'm certain Alex Anthopoulos doesn't want to end the 13 consecutive years without a workplace injury of avoiding going to arbitration, but I think it's more so about keeping the players happy than keeping the streak alive.

I've never been to salary arbitration court, but I'm willing to bet it's about as exciting as a root canal. All I can imagine is Judge Judy presiding over the courtroom and deciding over the fate of player's salaries.

All of the Blue Jays remaining arbitration cases are fairly straight forward, except for one; Jose Bautista's. Back in October, yours truly estimated that $5 to $6 million dollars would be a reasonable raise for Jose Bautista, but some are speculating he could fetch as much as $10 million dollars.

While most baseball players prefer to avoid salary arbitration like the plague, I can imagine Jose Bautista is welcoming it with open arms. After that milestone year in 2010, he'll want to get every single last penny he deserves, even if it means showing up to the hearings himself (in his snappy  suits from Gotstyle, nonetheless).

This was alluded to on Pitcher's Best Friend post on Jose Bautista's 2011 salary, but I honestly think if the Blue Jays were working on a contract extension for Jose Bautista, then they would've done it by now.

Rather than let the arbitrators have the power to decide what JoBau would make this year, the Jays could maintain control of the situation by signing now to a lower base salary for this year, but provide the guarantee for multiple years.

However, Rob made a good point saying that AA is very unpredictable and one can never truly predict what the Silent Assassin is up to until the deadline has arrived.

If the Blue Jays do not reach an agreement with Bautista prior to the deadline, I think we can pretty much wave bye bye to Bautista, whether it be him walking via free agency or a move at the trade deadline.

I can't see them coming to an agreement mid-season, and leaving contract negotiations until the end of the season is extremely dangerous. The temptations of free agency combined with the vultures overhead might just be too seducing for Jose Bautista to say no.

Money is not an issue on the open market, and the Blue Jays will not be able to compete with offers from other clubs promising riches, championships, and full access to a personal beard trimmer at all times.

I can understand the logic behind waiting to see just how much of an outlier year for 2010 was for Jose Bautista. If he comes back down to earth this coming season, then his value comes down. But if he puts up numbers that were even half of what he achieved in 2010, then he will be a highly touted free agent.

Trust me, I want Jose Bautista to stick around in Toronto just as much as the next guy, but if the two sides can't work out a deal before the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, then we might not even be left with a pumpkin to remember Jose Bautista's Cinderella season by.

9 comments:

  1. At the end of the day I'm not sure if it is a good idea for the Jays to lock up Bautista even if he has a good season this year. It will cost a lot of money over many years for a player entering his declining production years that also has the high risk of turning back into a pumpkin.

    Additionally, the Jays would be missing out on the opportunity to pick up more prospects that would come back as part of a Bautista deadline deal. Say the Reds are in a playoff hunt again this year, giving up a positionally blocked Yonder Alonso for the addition of stud like Batista would have to look pretty good to them.

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  2. Also, let's pretend for a second that it was next off season and Bautista was a free agent. Would you prefer the Jays signed him at $15 plus million for five years, or put that money towards signing Cecil Fielder, or Albert Pujols, etc. I personally would prefer it goes to a lower risk STUD player.

    Then again, if the Jays got nobody, I'd be extremely disappointed.

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  3. Peter, I would've given Bautista a deal primarily because there really aren't any third base prospects down on the farm banging at the door right now. At least by extending Bautista, you bridge the gap until the next latest and greatest is ready or AA makes a move for a big league third baseman.

    Ideally, if Bautista came out like gangbusters in the first half, then the Jays could warrant asking for Alonso and hopefully the Reds would reciprocate.

    And yes, I totally agree the money would be much better spent on year-in year-out proven guys like Fielder or Pujols, but they'll be looking for multi-year deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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  4. The thing that worries me is that JoBau seems to believe this is his new production level. I wouldn't be surprised if he has already turned down something like 3/30, and wants to build his value in 2011.

    People don't realize that he doesn't have to come close to his 2010 to cash in. If he hits .250/.350/.500 with 25+ HR, he will stand to receive ~$90-100MM, maybe even more.

    If the Jays don't sign him to an extension, I will see that as a terrible sign, that they are not interested in retaining their costly veterans. JoBau, even at league average offense, coupled with his positional flexibility, is worth ~$10MM annually, IMO.

    Don't forget, he can still be traded with an extension already signed, possibly more easily.

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  5. Andy, if that's the case then JoBau is definitely gone. I just can't see the Jays shelling out max money at the end of the season for him, either they need to do it now or find a suitor for him at the deadline.

    For the defensive flexibility he provides, there's nothing wrong with $10 mill a year. Heck, if they can pay Overbay $7 million, then $10 million is pretty reasonable for somebody who can play both corner infield positions as well as both corner outfield positions.

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  6. Two things:

    1. Bautista would prefer to play in the OF, so he may not want to stay if he has to play 3B.

    2. I see Brett Lawrie as the Jays primary 3B next season.

    @Andy, why would it be a terrible sign for the Jays to decline to sign a contract that would be bad for the team and may prevent them from being competitive. Just because they are a veteran, doesn't mean it's a good idea to overpay to keep them.

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  7. Peter, that could very well factor in to whether Bautista stays or goes. If he's promised the RF on another team for comparable money, that just might sway him away from Toronto.

    Lawrie at 3B would be great, but then who becomes the next second baseman after Hill?

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  8. Hill will most likely be the Jays 2B for the next 4 years, I wouldn't worry about that, unless of course the Jays decide not to pick up his options?

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  9. Peter, I can't remember when the deadline to pick up/drop the options is, I want to say it's Opening Day this year.

    Exploring those possibilities is an entire blog post in itself, but I can't see the Jays going anything less than 2 more years on that contract with Hill.

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