Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Trading Jose Bautista: The Counterproductive Move
By Ian Hunter
In their right minds, the Toronto Blue Jays would never trade Jose Bautista ... ever. There's no way the Blue Jays would deal away one of the cornerstone players of their franchise in return for starting pitching and/or a second baseman.
I really, truly want to believe this sentiment. But in baseball, never say never.
Plans change, priorities shift and other needs suddenly come to fruition.
Times are tough and the Toronto Blue Jays are once again in a state of flux. After another disappointing season, the front office is looking to improve the team by any means necessary.
Alex Anthopoulos claims the Blue Jays are at least willing to listen on trades involving any player on the roster, and that would of course include players like Jose Antonio Bautista.
He's under team control for 2014 and 2015 at a very reasonable $14 million dollars per year, with a $14 million dollar option tagged on for the 2016 season as well.
For a player who's been worth 14.9 Wins Above Replacement the past three years and whose free agent market value is around $69.6 million dollars total (per FanGraphs), Jose Bautista would indeed be a very attractive trade chip for prospective team in need of offense.
Here's why it doesn't make sense for the Blue Jays to trade Jose Bautista; it would fill one hole, but it creates another.
Dealing Bautista for starting pitching would satisfy one need the Blue Jays are sorely lacking, but then it creates a giant void in the heart of Toronto's lineup.
I have a very tough time believing that trading Jose Bautista for a starting pitcher and possibly a second baseman or catcher really put the Toronto Blue Jays further ahead than they already are.
A few weeks back, 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball asked about my thoughts on the possibility of a trade involving Bautista to the Mets. My sentiment is still the same; regardless of what players the Blue Jays might receive return, trading Bautista is almost counterintuitive.
A move like that would leave the Blue Jays extremely vulnerable in the offensive department. Unless the Blue Jays are expecting every other player in the Blue Jays lineup to make significant strides forward offensively, it's almost unfathomable that they can replace the production of Jose Bautista.
Or let me put it this way ... the Blue Jays could find someone to match Jose Bautista's production, but the odds are it would be at a much higher annual salary than $14 million, and it would have to be on a much longer term than two years plus an option.
Carlos Beltran is not walking through that door for only $14 million dollars a season. He's asking for much, much more ... and even if the Toronto Blue Jays came in with the right number, perhaps he still isn't interested in playing on the Rogers Centre turf 81 games a year.
Here's another thing to ponder; if the Blue Jays did in fact decide to trade Jose Bautista this offseason, they'd actually be selling somewhat low on him. Those factors considers, one wonders if Alex Anthopoulos would truly get fair market value for Jose anyway.
While those two years plus option look good on paper, the fact remains he's missed 115 games the past two seasons. And at 33 years old, there are still valid concerns about Bautista's health.
Even though the Blue Jays were forced to shut down Jose Bautista in the past two consecutive seasons, Joey Bats has still contributed his fair share in spite of injury concerns. So even for prospective trade partners, the health concerns can somewhat be negated by the incredible potential of a healthy Jose Bautista.
Since 2011, the Blue Jays have seemingly built the team around Jose Bautista. He was the first player in the Alex Anthopoulos era to receive a sizable contract extension, and many others have followed: Edwin Encarnarcion, Casey Janssen and Brandon Morrow to name a few.
At this very moment, Jose Bautista is arguably the most important player on the Blue Jays roster. The success of the Toronto Blue Jays hinges largely on the performance of Jose Bautista. And you simply can't trade away players like Bautista and expect to succeed immediately.
The only instance I can think of when a player of Bautista's magnitude was readily replaced is the St. Louis Cardinals let Albert Pujols walk as a free agent. Fast forward two years later, lo and behold, they're back in the World Series without him.The Cardinals however, are the exception to the rule.
It would be one thing if the Blue Jays had an outfield prospect that could step in and either match or at least come somewhat close to Jose Bautista's production. But the Blue Jays farm system doesn't have a player that's even close to the calibre of Bautista and nobody that even projects to be in the same neighbourhood as Joey Bats.
Coming through the outfield depth chart doesn't exactly make one salivate. Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, Moises Sierra ... these aren't names that instill a lot of confidence in the replacement prospects in right field.
So here are the Blue Jays at a crossroads; they're either going to move forward with Jose Bautista and continue their "win now" philospophy, or they're going to trade him ... and doing so would likely set off yet another mini-rebuild.
And I think that's predominantly why I'm opposed to a Jose Bautista trade; because it would feel like a move of desperation by the Blue Jays. To borrow another overused sports cliche, it's the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.
Sure, trading Jose Bautista might work out in the Blue Jays favour; but it also has an equal chance of blowing up in their faces, too.
But after two consecutive horrible seasons, the Blue Jays are likely desperate to do something ... anything to end their 20 year playoff drought. And that may very well include parting with one of their key franchise players, Jose Bautista.
Image courtesy of National Post