Are the Oakland A's Going to Trade for Jose Bautista in 2011?

For all of those guys and gals who may have forgotten all about the day of love, hurry out and grab something to hand to your loved one! Happy Valentine’s day, if you celebrate it and have someone to celebrate it with, and if not, there’s plenty of Jays happenings to consider instead.

Cupid’s arrow may have missed the mark thus far in getting a deal done between the Jays and Jose Bautista, whether short term or long term, but there’s no telling who the arrow will land closest to during today’s arbitration hearing. Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun seems to believe that not signing Jose Bautista to a long term deal is a major mistake by the Jays, while I’m sort of in the middle of things. I don’t mind a 2-3 year investment, but I also don’t believe Bautista would settle for that. Fidlin makes a good case for signing him, but I also think that he forgot the potential benefits of Bautista as a trade piece mid-season if he continues to mash.

The argument for signing Jose Bautista to a 1-year deal and trading him mid-season:

When July comes around, many teams will know whether or not they are in the hunt for a playoff spot. Injuries will have occured, performances will be great or horrible, and the standings will tell the story. When you consider how many playoff races were so tight last season and the price that some teams were willing to pay in order to get an edge over their opponents, you get a compeling story to keep Bautista as a potential trade piece.

Besides, with younger and cheaper – yet high-ceilinged – outfielders such as Eric Thames, Moises Sierra, Jacob Marisnick, and Anthony Gose making their way towards the majors, I really don’t see the need to clog up the roster with an aging power hitter with a 5-6 year contract, which is rightfully what Bautista should be looking for after 2011. Anyone who has observed power hitters and their declining numbers after they reach age 34 knows that such a deal could be horrible for the Jays to take on.

Also, if the Jays win or lose Bautista’s arbitration case, they motivate him to perform in 2011 because he has yet to get that lucrative long-term deal. So, let’s assume that he goes gangbusters like he did in 2010 and continues to prove his power is real, what is his trade value on the market? It’s at a minimum 2 impact prospects that could benefits the Jays for years to come, possibly 3. Alex Anthopoulos is going to target the highest ceilinged players in any deal, so expect fewer prospects that are the best of the bunch in any deal involving Jays players. That makes trading Jose Bautista in mid-2011 a very attractive proposition for the Jays.

Before we look at the value of Jose Bautista on the trade market, I want to touch on a couple of things. First, I really do believe he’ll be able to continue to mash at a very high level in 2011 and 2012 and I’m therefore a big fan of his staying with the Jays. Second, Jared did a fantastic job analyzing the extension scenarios that the Jays are left with now that Jose Bautista has decided to place a deadline on negotiations. Extending him remains a real possibility, and I’m not indicating a preference to trade him by posting what his trade value may be.

Bautista’s Trade Value and One Example:

The “silent assassin”, as Alex Anthopoulos has been called by many, likely has his plan already sorted out. A 1-year deal before arbitration is the only thing that’s out of the question so far, leaving the arbitration verdict, an extension, or a trade as the only possibilities. The arbitration outcomes are set based on submitted numbers, the extension options were detailed by Jared, and I’ll now take a peak at an example of the options the Jays may have in turning Jose Bautista into a very lucrative trade piece.

Jose Bautista‘s 2010 Performance Reviewed:

Forget for a moment about everything that happened before the 2010 season, and imagine you’re an MLB GM receiving an email that has the following stats about a 30 year old 3B-OF included:

Yr Age G AB H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Awards
10 29 161 569 148 35 54 124 9 2 100 116 0.260 0.378 0.617 0.995 166 351 AS,MVP-4,SS

Add in the following:

  • Had 12 outfield assists (2nd in AL)
  • Held a WAR of 5.6, and oWAR of 7.1 (2nd in AL)
  • Had an oRAR (offensive runs above replacement levels) of 73
  • Hit a HR every 10.5 ABs
  • Tops in the AL with 92 extra base hits
  • His 351 total bases were also tops in the AL
  • 2nd in the AL with 100 BB
  • Won the Silver Slugger, the Hank Aaron Award
  • Finished 4th on MVP voting.

If you’re a contending team in MLB, what are you willing to pay for that in terms of prospects and players? A ton!

I’m guessing it’s a whole lot more than you are willing to pay if you know the story of how those stats came to be present. The struggles that Bautista had leading up to his historic 2010 season are what keep his trade value grounded to a certain level. However, a great first half to the 2011 season could dispell all of the fears about a regression of sorts, and Bautista’s trade value would skyrocket as a result.

Therefore, while I’ll examine one particular team that may or may not be interested in Jose Bautista‘s services in 2011 (my most likely trade partner evaluated for the Jays in such a team – for now) and could make a deal happen with the Jays as a result, I don’t expect that we can predict when a deal could happen, if it ever does happen. Only Alex Anthopoulos knows when he’ll feel comfortable enough to pull the trigger on such a deal, but we can at least take a stab at where that deal may come from, whether it happens in the pre-season or during the season.

Here is my favorite team to chase Bautista on the trade martket:

The Oakland Athletics

Everyone knows that they’ve had issues drawing big free agent names to Oakland in recent years and have had to settle for trying to improve their chances mostly through trades or big risk talents like Rich Harden and Ben Sheets. They were able to draw the aging but still effective Hideki Matsui to sign with them, and did make a deal for David DeJesus, but they lost out on their chase for Adrian Beltre, despite reportedly offering a very lucrative deal to the gold-glove 3B. Their lineup definitely lacks pop and needs someone with Jose Bautista‘s power to help drive in runs on a regular basis. With their young and impressive rotation, a slugger like Bautista could be the missing link between them and the playoffs.

The A’s and Jays have made a few deals since Alex Anthopoulos took over. The first was when the Jays acquired Brett Wallace in return for Michael Taylor (who struggled mightily in 2010), and the second was the recent acquisition of Rajai Davis in return for Danny Farquhar and Trystan Magnuson. Lines of communication are definitely strong between these two franchises.

The A’s only hit 109 HRs in 2010, 3rd worse in the majors, and the outlook in 2011 isn’t much better. They did make some improvements to their power totals by adding Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui, but even their slightly higher HR potential doesn’t put Oakland in the middle of the lack. Let’s say they wind up with 130 HRs with those players added, they’re still well within the bottom 10 in MLB. But, adding Bautista to that lineup changes things completely and places them at the opposite end, within the top 10 HR hitting teams in MLB, because their potential would then sit in the 170 HR range. It’s exactly the power surge that their lineup needs.

What do they have to offer the Jays in return? Here are a few I came up with, in no certain order of preference:

  • SS Grant Green – 23 yo – HiA: Listed as the top A’s prospect by Baseball America, he struggles enough defensively to see a move to 2B being a real possibility. To me, he would be an automatic inclusion in a deal for Bautista.
  • 1B Chris Carter – 24 yo – AAA/Maj: Listed as the #2 A’s prospect by Baseball America, he has a big bat that could wing up providing an MLB team with 25-40 HR per season with some questions surrounding how high of an average he’ll hit for. While Oakland could wait for his bat to mature, they may feel more comfortable with Barton at 1B (where Carter’s abilities make the most sense) and a big bat such as Bautista’s at 3B or in the OF instead.
  • SP Tyson Ross – 23 yo – AAA/Maj: His ceiling is as a #2 and the A’s have enough depth in their rotation to make up for his loss. The big question mark here would be his health, as he has been plagued with his elbow.
  • RP Andrew Bailey – 26 yo – OAK Closer in 2010: The Jays are looking for a long term option at the closing position and Bailey would instantaneously resolve that issue. With Brian Fuentes shunning the Jays in preference of the A’s with a contract for 2011 and 2012, presumably to become their closer, Bailey suddenly becomes more available. He converted 25 of 28 save opportunities for the A’s in 2010, and 26 of 30 in 2009.
  • 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff – 29 yo – OAK: Not the sexiest of acquisition pieces, but an effective 3B that can provide a stop gap between him and some of the 3B options coming through the Jays system, such as Kellen Sweeney and Christopher Hawkins. He is arbitration eligible for the last time in 2012, and is set to make $4,750,000 in 2011.
  • INF Adrian Cardenas – 23 yo – AA/AAA: He seems to be inching closer to becoming a bench option than a starting option at this point, but he’d be a fairly useful one as someone who can play 2B, SS, or 3B and hit for average while getting on base at an above average rate.
  • A Starter – all 3 top starters of Oakland’s rotation would obviously be attractive to the Jays. I seriously doubt that the Jays could land one of Brett Anderson or Trevor Cahill, but I could see Alex Anthopoulos targeting someone like Gio Gonzalez. If he lands any of the 3 in return for Bautista, it could provide the Jays with one of the best young rotations in the American League.
  • Others: OF Michael Taylor, SP Fautino De Los Santos, LHP Ian Kroll, 2B Jemile Weeks, OF Michael Choice.

Having listed the options above, there’s no guarantee that Bautista would be the only one headed to Oakland in a deal. The Jays could include a veteran reliever in order to get Bailey included, and the same could be true for a position player. There are a multitude of options available here, I’m just pointing out that Grant Green at 2B and Chris Carter at 1B would fill the long-term needs of the Jays at some positions, both of which are weaknesses at the top of the Jays system. Whether it’s adding prospects or other MLB players, the Jays have some pieces that may fit perfectly with the needs of the A’s. 

Financially speaking, the A’s are in a similar situation as the Jays. They currently sit at just over $62 million committed to the 2011 season, and have less than $18 million committed in 2012 and beyond. That leaves them with more than enough money to extend Bautista if they want to, or let him walk if that seems to be a better option for them.

The most important part here is that they are ready to compete in their division in 2011, while the Jays are still another year away. So, this deal allows the A’s to make the absolute best push possible for a playoff spot while increasing the chances that the Jays will do the same in 2012 and beyond.

The resulting outlook for the Jays if Bautista is traded to Oakland:

The Jays infield of the future with Grant Green and Chris Carter included would be as follows:

That’s about as talented, young, and potent a future infield as you can find in all of baseball. All would go through their growing pains simultaneously, and all would provide the Jays with an explosion of talent as they mature as MLB players. That, to me, sounds exactly like the freight train Alex Anthopoulos has been talking about.

Obviously, the A’s are not going to easily let go of their top prospects in return for Bautista, so a potential deal isn’t even close to being a reality. But, with the way that they’ve been shunned on the FA market, you have to believe that the A’s are growing weary of that route. With their pitching being as strong as it is, they really only need that one extra piece to push them into the lead in the AL West. The Rangers have questions within their pitching, the Mariners have questions everywhere, and the Angels haven’t made much of an impression this off season. With a bat like Bautista’s in the middle of their lineup, the A’s could become the favorites in the AL West.

The biggest question in terms of the possibility of the A’s acquiring Bautista is their intent after 2011. If they acquire him and sign him to an extension in a sign and trade style deal, they would be more likely to offer more for his services than if they saw him as simply a piece of the puzzle for 2011. Although, if they acquire him for 2 of their top prospects, make the playoffs, and then let him walk as a probable Type A FA, they still get 2 top prospects back in the 2012 draft, so their risk is mitigated by not signing Bautista to an extension and also the reasons I believe the A’s may be willing to include 2 of their top prospects in a deal.

Those are my reasons for believing that Jose Bautista may be dealt at some point in 2011, which also explains the lack of an offer from the Jays to Bautista before their arbitration hearing. I could easily be wrong here, but I see the A’s as the front runners for his services. Other contenders would be the Angels, the Mariners, the White Sox, the Tigers, and the Reds.

That’s my take on the Jose Bautista situation as we await word of his arbitration hearing outcome.

– MG

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Tags: Adeiny Hechavarria Adrian Cardenas Andrew Bailey Brett Anderson Brett Lawrie Chris Carter Gio Gonzalez Grant Green Jose Bautista Kevin Kouzmanoff Michael Taylor Trevor Cahill

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