Jays mailbag: About Bautista's reported deal
The early fan reaction to Jose Bautista's reported five-year contract for $65 million guaranteed, plus an option has been decidedly negative. One-year wonder? Well, so far he has been but you must admit it was a wonderful one year.
Is he the baseball equivalent of some other one-hit wonders, maybe Knockin' Boots, Ride Captain Ride, Funkytown, Rapper's Delight or Billy Ray Cyrus's forgettable Achy Breaky Heart? Maybe. But the seemingly valid comparison to Dan Uggla's freshly negotiated five-year, $62 million deal with the Braves has not sold Jays fans on the wisdom of inking the current MLB home-run king with the journeyman past to anything more than his final arbitration year.
Consider that David Ortiz was 27 before he hit 30 homers and was 30 when he hit his own 54 homers. That's a year older than Bautista played at last year. Consider the legendary Arthur was a mere stable urchin until he pulled the sword from the stone. Then he became king and never looked back. Sometimes people are late bloomers and 29 is not really ancient.
The argument is made by doubters that despite being the same age (Bautista eight months younger) and with the same “five-plus” service time (Bautista an extra 170 days), that Uggla more deserved his money because of his 30-homer consistency over the last four seasons. But that's also a ceiling. I think that whenever it is finally announced, even given the reported terms, it will be a solid signing for the Jays. Bautista's value to his club is more than just with a bat in his hands. He is a far better defender at two positions than Uggla. He is a far bigger clubhouse presence than is Uggla, relied upon by his team for more than just on-field accomplishments.
Bautista's ceiling, considering his 54 homers, 100 walks, 124 RBIs and .995 OPS in 2010 is clearly higher than Uggla's. Consider that throughout major-league baseball in 2011, there will be 55 players that will earn more than $12 million (total of guaranteed money averaged out per year on their current deal), according to the reliable Cot's Baseball Contracts website. That is almost two $12 million-plus players per franchise. Bautista will be the only one on the Jays once his contract is finalized. Those player in 2011 in a similar range between $12-14 million include: Bautista, Uggla, Chipper Jones, K-Rod, Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, Victor Martinez, Paul Konerko, Chris Carpenter, Joey Votto, Jorge Posada, J.D. Drew, David Ortiz, Todd Helton, Justin Morneau, Mark Buehrle and Adam Dunn.
Q: In regards to Bautista, would it not be a wise idea to sign him for one year via arbitration, see if his season was a fluke or not? As he is 31 years old, and with the Jays looking to compete in 2012 and the seasons to follow, why not keep an eye on Bautista in 2011, and if this season is like last for him, why not trade him before the deadline for blue chip prospects? This train of thought seems more inline with A.A's direction than signing a 31-year-old to a 5-year contract when the Jays aren't even in compete "mode", they are still in the rebuilding stage.
Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake
A: First of all, Bautista will be playing the 2011 season as a 30-year-old. The one big advantage the Jays had until 15 days after this year's 2011 World Series is that they are the only ones with the exclusive ability to negotiate with Bautista. Use it. If they had chosen to “keep an eye” on the home-run king for a second year to see if it was a fluke and if he then had another powerful season, the price would have gone up and competition for his services would likely have knocked the Jays out of the box. As for the strategy of trading him at the deadline for “blue chip prospects” that's always easier said than done. As a likely Type A free agent playing out his contract heading into free agency, you would have to get back the equivalent of a first-round prsopect and a sandwich-level pick, minimum. Recall the Jays got pitchers Zach Stewart and Josh Roenicke from the Reds for Scott Rolen, but Rolen was still under contract for a year and a half when the Reds acquired him. Besides, at some point the “rebuilding” must end and the will to compete for a post-season berth must kick in. Under your scenario, it seems keeping Bautista long-term was never an option. Under Anthopoulos' scenario keeping Bautista long-term seems to be clearly in line with his “direction” moving forward to competing in 2012.
Q: Hey Richard,
How important is it that AA signs Bautista in order to show the other latin players coming up that Toronto is not a stepping stone to somewhere better. You can play your career in Toronto.
Michael S, Toronto
A: Just as when the Jays had a huge Latin American profile in the heyday of scout Epy Guerrero in the early to mid-'80s, with guys like Alfredo Griffin, Tony Fernandez, Damaso Garcia and George Bell, when young kids in the streets of the Dominican Republic walked around wearing Jays hats, the pending Bautista signing to a huge multi-year deal, highlighted by the professional way the Jays have handled the risk-reward situation with the power-hitting Dominican, anticipating the positive spinoff effect it will have on their current Latin players like Yunel Escobar, Edwin Encarnacion, Octavio Dotel, Carlos Villanueva, Frank Francisco, Jose Molina and Adeiny Hechavarria, it offsets some of the criticism that the Jays may have overpaid their player. There is more than just statistics and breakdowns to consider. This is not the Yankees throwing money around on a whim. This is an up and coming organization trying to rebuild its image and enhance its profile in the free-agent world.
With all the talk about who will fill in the back end of the rotation I was wondering how Dustin McGowan was coming along. A few years ago him and Shaun Marcum were young studs, then both got hurt, and hurt again, then managed to injure themselves. Marcum eventually made it back, is there any hope of a timeline for a possible McGowan return? And any hope of a return to form?
Matt Driscoll, Toronto
A: Don't count on the 29-year-old McGowan at any point in 2011 — at least at the major-league level. He has missed the last two seasons and is continuing to do his best to rehab and as long as he is willing to fight, the Jays will stick with him. He has had two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery since last pitching in a major-league game. Shoulders are far less predictable than elbows because of the number of muscles and other things in the shoulder compared to the elbow joint. McGowan has not yet begun throwing from a mound again and the fact is that if he misses another full season, there are very few pitchers that have missed three years and have come back. The Jays have a number of young starting pitchers in the minor-league hopper that are passing McGowan month-by-month.
Q: Hi Richard,
I was just wondering if Albert Pujols does not sign an extension with the Cardinals, would the Blue Jays have an interest in perhaps trading for him. They likely have the assets to do so. What do you think?
Joe DiFranco, Mississauga
A: It would make no sense for the Jays to make an offer unless they are willing to sign Pujols long-term for 10 years, $300 million, which is what he reportedly wants and which the Jays are not likely to do. Besides, the reports are that Pujols has insisted he will invoke his no-trade clause for 2011 if the Cards try and deal him before the end of his contract. The Cards want to wn the NL Central.
Q: I have seen much written on who will make the Jays pen and why. It seems like everyone has Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch and Jason Frasor as sure things and most likely Shawn Camp & David Purcey in as well. I also hear the names of Casey Janssen & Carlos Villanueva and few others. Nowhere do I hear or see the name Wil Ledezma. Why is that? Seems to me to be a perfect guy to come in and face that one lefty in the 7th or 8th, yet because he was sent to Triple A and is a non-roster invite to spring training he doesn’t warrant a mention?
Shawn Keba, Caledon
A: I have mentioned Ledezma in past mailbags and columns. I always liked him as a bullpen part when he was with the Tigers. You listed eight Jays' names for 2011 and yes those are the top eight names that have been mentioned. One of the main reasons those guys are always talked about is that other than Purcey, the other seven guys have guaranteed contracts for more than $1 million. Tough to send them to the minors. Therein lies the Jays' dilemma. With five starters, there is room for only seven relievers on the 25-man roster. The seven guaranteed contracts are all righthanders. That means out of the group of four lefties – Purcey, Jesse Carlson, Jo-Jo Reyes and Ledezma, the only way to carry two of those guys is to clear the decks of two of those millionaire righties. The bullpen situation will be interesting to watch as opening day approaches. Ledezma deserves a mention.
Q: Do you think that the Jays would undo the Roy Halladay trade today if they were able to? Financially, they could easily afford to pay him through 2013 and if their goal is to compete in 2012/2013 they would be more competitive with Doc as the No 1 instead of Drabek at 4. They also would still would have tons of flexibility financially to sign other players. (If they also held on to Marcum, they might have had the top rotation in the MLB in 2012/2013)
Josh Cymbalista, Thornhill
A: That's a great, multi-layered question and you make some good points. The bottom line is that the Halladay trade was necessary for Anthopoulos to move forward to building a sustainable contender for the wild-card (especially of they add another one) starting in 2012 and beyond. Doc was the equivalent of human handcuffs. Dealing Halladay to the Phillies signalled to his own players, to his staff and to other GMs where the Jays were heading. If he had kept Halladay, every move would have had to be made towards winning right here, right now, which, when you think about it was one of the reasons J.P. Ricciardi was replaced because of his kneejerk reaction to every five-game winning streak, to every 85-win season as being the surefire stepping stone to the post-season. It never turned out that way because of the short-term nature of most of J.P.'s player-acquisition moves. If the Jays had kept Halladay, how could A.A. have ever traded Wells, because that would have been a signal they were rebuilding which would not have been the promose they made to Doc. And with Halladay earning $20 million per year moving forward and with Wells at $23 million, that's $43 million for two guys. They would have re-signed John Buck, kept Lyle Overbay, re-upped Scott Downs, let Jose Bautista go and not traded Shaun Marcum. In five years where would the Jays have been? In that light, I don't think they regret the Halladay trade. He wanted to play in a World Series and he reached the NLCS in his first year with the Phillies and is now part of the greatest four-man rotation of this century. I can't include Joe Blanton.
Q: Hi Richard,
You and everyone else in the Toronto media is so ecstatic over Vernon Wells departure, but how has no one addressed the fact that they are a worse team in 2011 without him in the lineup and playing centrefield? Who cares if they shed his contract, a) it's not our money, b) Rogers claims they will spend well over $100 million if the team becomes competitive anyways. I think we should have kept him, his contract, his bat, his presence, and the depth he could have provided. Depth is at the heart of every championship team.
Stefan Rentas, Vancouver
A: I'm not so sure that “ecstatic” is the word that I would use to describe the reaction to Wells' departure. It was more a case of being stunned that Anthopoulos was able to move the contract with four years and $86 million remaining. No, you're right, the '11 Jays are not a better team without Wells in centre field, but Wells' ceiling had been reached and people were ducking to get through the doorways. He wasn't the best centre fielder in baseball. He was good. He wasn't the best middle of the order hitter in baseball. He was good. He didn't have the best throwing arm. It was alright. He was a good baserunner. Not the best. He is a good human being and has a social conscience, but so was Mother Teresa and she didn't command $23 million per year. Wells, like Halladay, is another Jays player that had yet to taste the post-season and is happier where he is. Wells is ecstatic. Media is not.
Q: Via Twitter:
So..... would I be crazy saying I'd take the Jays rotation over any other in the AL East?
(@AABurke81) Andy A King
A: Let's see. This is according to the ESPN.com depth charts.
JAYS: Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek, Litsch/Rzepczynski.
YANKEES: Sabathia, Hughes, Burnett, Nova, Mitre.
RED SOX: Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz, Dice-K.
RAYS: Price, Shields, Davis, Hellickson, Niemann.
O's: Guthrie, Matusz, Duchscherrer, Tillman, Arrieta.
The Jays have an opportunity to stay together for a while and become very good, but right now with Romero being the only 200+ pitcher in the Jays' bunch, I would rank the rotations: Boston, Tampa Bay, Jays, New York, Baltimore. The Jays and Rays are very close.
Do you think the acquisition of speed will significantly help the Jays who struggled last year at the plate? (Hill, Lind). If the Jays raise their OBP and are a legit threat to steal, will this force pitchers to go after hitters more aggressively by throwing strikes? If so, would Hill and Lind be able to capitalize? If those two players had combined for 15 more HRs between them, and Bautista had only hit 20 HRs, the Jays still would have lead the league by a wide margin.
Chris Grasman, Clearview
A: There are players in Jays' major-league camp that can fly on the bases -- Scott Podsednik, Cory Patterson, Rajai Davis, Mike McCoy. Anyone who is a regular reader of the mailbag knows how much I admire speed as a weapon in baseball. Not just stealing-bases-speed, but first to third and second to home speed. Much overlooked is that the Jays stole 170 bases when they won the World Series in 1993. I agree with you that just the threat of the stolen base from your table-setters batting at the top of the order changes the way that pitchers approach your middle-of-the-order RBI guys. That threat was missing last season and in the recent Jays' past. Pitchers could focus totally on pitching to the hitter using his entire repertoire. The key is that the Jays truly need to increase their on-base average.