Thursday, February 17, 2011

Betting $65 Million on Jose Bautista Could Pay Off


By
Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Jose Bautista has about 65 million reasons to be grinning ear to ear right now.

Earlier this week, I solicited the Blue Jays to pay Jose Bautista, and they did ... big time; to the tune of five years and $65 million dollars, with a club option for a sixth year which could ultimately reach $79 million dollars.

On paper at this moment, I'll admit this contract scares me a little bit. There is a chance it could all blow up in the face of Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays, but the only way to find out whether or not it could work is to try.

As much as this decision smells of upper management, I won't pawn off the onus onto the front office for making the final decision on this one. I'm willing to give Anthopoulos the benefit of the doubt here. He believes in Jose Bautista the player, and the person ... and we should too.

It's easy to get hung up over the dollar amount because $65 million dollars is a lot of money. No matter if you're the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, or even the New York Yankees. At the end of the day though, it's just money.

Money can be spent frivolously or it can be used very wisely, but in the end it's just cash. Considering which media conglomerate owns this team, you know there will always be more cash in the piggy bank if needed.

It's great the organization managed to save the $59 million remaining on Alex Rios' contract and the $86 million remaining on the Vernon Wells contract, but do you think they were just saving it all for a rainy day? This spending shows the Blue Jays are ready to compete and they aren't afraid to fork out the cash to do it.

Within the last 18 months, the Blue Jays have traded away key players like Alex Rios, Roy Halladay, Shaun Marcum and Vernon Wells. Although those kind of moves signal a rebuild is in the process, what kind of message does that send to the fans?

More importantly, what kind of message does that send to players being brought up through the minor league system, or even prospective free agents? That if you're loyal to the organization, work hard and perform well that you'll be cast aside?

I suspect Alex Anthopoulos is well aware of that reputation, and the Jose Bautista contract is an attempt to repair that image turn the page to begin in new era. In order to make Toronto an attractive place to play for certain players, this organization has to prove they are willing to pay top dollar for top talent.

Honestly speaking as a fan, all I really care about is building a winner, and this is the first big step towards that. The gesture alone of the Jose Bautista contract speaks volumes about where the Blue Jays priorities lie.

These fans are hungry for a winner. The city of Toronto is yearning to see a team back in the playoffs. Obviously, the Blue Jays believe that window of opportunity is the present, and Bautista's contract is evidence of that.

Forget about all the statistics and all the tangibles for a moment and let's look at the bigger picture. Forget what the projections are for 2011 and beyond. This contract is a means to an end. And if the Blue Jays win a World Series (or even make the playoffs), then in the end it will all be worth it.

Many of you probably think Jose Bautista becomes grossly overpaid and there's no way he could ever possibly live up to the expectations that come with this dollar amount. Well, that's the inherent risk you take when you sign any player to a long-term contract.

Albert Pujols has been a stud his entire career, but who's to say he doesn't fall off the map once he signs his next big contract? These are all possibilities as nothing is ever for certain in the game of baseball.

We can all argue ad nauseam as to whether the Blue Jays made a smart move here, but let's not be so quick to judge the contract before Jose Bautista has even played a single game under his new deal. Talk to me in five years and then let's look back and discuss whether or not it was a good deal.

There's no question they're taking a big gamble by signing Jose Bautista to a five year/$65 million dollar contract, but sometimes you have to bet big to win big. Nobody said the road to glory was going to be easy, and nobody said it was going to be cheap either.

The Blue Jays have proven they want to go to bat with Jose Bautista, and they're willing to bet $65 million on number 19 to prove it. Now, only time will tell if it will pay off.

10 comments:

  1. Great Post!

    I really like the signing. There's a lot more to what Jose brings to the table then just his bat. He's a defensive asset at multiple positions, and it has been said that he's the guy who will be the club house leader moving forward. You're absolutely right, it's only money. In the grand scheme of things (Jayson Werth 126million, has only hit 20hr's or more 3 times) it's not even that much money given where the market is going.

    Do you think they plan on having Jose keep 3B warm for a year or two until Lawrie is ready? Then move him back out to RF?

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  2. Ball Fan, I don't want to overvalue those intangibles, but I think they did somewhat play a part in the Blue Jays decision to give him a 5 year contract. You're right, compared to other contracts on the market, it's pretty reasonable.

    I think he'll probably be at third for a couple years, then we'll see how Lawrie fares at the hot corner. Corner outfielders are a dime a dozen, so I'd prefer to keep him at third base for the time being.

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  3. I hope Ian, I really hope.
    It all seems pretty reasonable when you think that the Jays are basically paying market value for just under 3 WAR per year for 5 years, and that Bautista should be able to provide at least that, on average.
    On the other hand, it all seems pretty unreasonable when you see that he's only ever exceeded 2 WAR once.
    It's not worth worrying about, and I am excited to see what he'll do. I don't know why I want to watch a team where nobody gets paid more than $10 million -- maybe it's the sheer magnitude of the dollar figure, or maybe it's the record of the guys who have been highest paid on this team in recent years (Halladay notwithstanding).
    Now that it's done -- Let's play ball already!

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  4. this signing reminds me of the Alex Rios deal with only one difference.

    It's Jose friggin' Bautista!

    Bautista Bombs!

    on another note, I thought there would be a more creative contract put in place, this one was surprisingly straightforward.
    So who's the next long term deal for the Jays?
    In my eyes, definitely Brandon Morrow. Probably next off-season.
    If Cecil doesn't get signed next off-season, you'd have to assume he may be stuck in a wait and see with our other "higher upside" prospects.
    He's going to be the interesting case going forward. I see AA looking to lock up his high upside guys at some point next off-season i.e. Morrow, Snider, Escobar (if he has a great season)

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  5. QJays, I also heard the little bit about inflation, and what with the way contracts are heading higher and higher, by year 4 or 5 I think this deal will be pretty reasonable so long as Bautista can sustain some decent offensive production. Only one more week till Spring Training games!

    GCM1979, one of these days I'll probably surrender and will do a Bautista Bomb (and then probably immediately regret it).

    I think all those long-term deals hinge on what happens this year. If Snider, Morrow and Escobar can stay healthy, they'll all probably have decent years ... which will go a long way to getting them long-term deals.

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  6. I absolutely despise this signing and I think the timing says more about who made the decision than anything else. Today is Tickets Day.

    For Jose Bautista to achieve a contract noticeably larger than what he received this year, he'd have to go for 50 again. In reality, Alex just didn't have to make this decision yet. He basically gave away a free year of determining whether or not 2010 was an aberration for the possibility of saving a few million bucks.

    As for building a winner, does anyone thing we'll compete in the next two or three years? I think if you want to commit to the future, you have to commit to the future. You don't go spending on the *now* when you could be spending on.... the future!

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  7. I like this signing and people shouldn't get too hung up on the money aspect.

    Also, I have no doubts that if the Jays didn't sign Bautista now, he would have either been traded prior to the deadline, or left as a free agent. It really was now or never, and I'm glad that he'll be back.

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  8. Kris, the danger in leaving a contract extension until the offseason is what if Bautista has another monster season? Then the Blue Jays might price themselves out, and the Yankees could swoop in and pay Bautista whatever he wants. With this signing, I have a feeling the front office thinks they are closer to winning than most suspect.

    Peter, just watching what's going on with Albert Pujols right now, if the Jays went to arbitration with Bautista, that basically meant he was out the door - either via free agency or trade at the deadline. I'm glad they locked him up, it's a sign of good things to come!

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  9. Nothing wrong with this at all. As someone else pointed out, "medium risk, high reward". Even worst case scenario this is not that big of a deal. Yeah the Jays are building for the future, and Bautista isn't blocking anyone or taking money away from signing anyone either. He's basically a stopgap at 3B this year and can go back to RF in 2012. I like prospects and rookies as much as the next guy but you can't have an entire team of inexperienced kids. Somebody has to be there to pass the torch when the time comes. (Or blast monster home runs into the 200 level and make the Yankee and Red Sox fans go home crying.)

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  10. sadp, Bautista's versatility at many positions will definitely help. That way if someone is coming up through the farm, he can play either 3B or the corner outfield positions. Heck, he could probably hold it down at first base if he needed to!

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