Normally, fans of a club are either relieved that their team and star player didn’t go to arbitration when a signing like Jose Bautista‘s occurs. He reportedly reached a 5-year $65 million deal with an option for another season (not sure yet if it is a club option or a player option) worth $13 million the same amount as the average value of his deal. But, it is such a highly-debated and somewhat controversial deal that most Jays fans are left holding their collective breathes, hoping it works out for the Jays and Bautista.
Bautista will be 35 years old at the end of the deal, which is still not that old for someone who can most likely man 1B or DH at some point if his legs don’t last. So long as his power remains present, the Jays won’t have any problem finding a spot for him in their lineup.
One bonus of this signing is that if he does continue to mash, it could make the Jays a very attractive destination for free agents or players that are on the trade block. If they had dealt Bautista or signed him to a 1 year deal, there would be much uncertainty remaining, possibly making some players hesitant to come to Toronto.
The Jays also kept a player who will undoubtedly grow into his leadership role further than he did in 2010 now that he knows he’s sticking around.
I’d like to compare the Bautista deal to what the Nationals paid for Jayson Werth, another player who doesn’t have a very lengthy list of high-level performance years. In fact, both players began mashing a little more at age 29, which is a strange coincidence.
Since we don’t know the breakdown of the contract yet, I’ll just divide it up into $13 million per season.
2011 – $10.571,429 million (Werth, 31) / $13 million (Bautista, 30)
2012 – $13.571 million (Werth, 32) / $13 million (Bautista, 31)
2013 – $16.571 million (Werth, 33) / $13 million (Bautista, 32)
2014 – $20.571 million (Werth, 34) / $13 million (Bautista, 33)
2015 – $20.571 million (Werth, 35) / $13 million (Bautista, 34)
2016 – $20.571 million (Werth, 36) / $13 million (Bautista, 35) (Option)
2017 – $20.571 million (Werth, 37)
Total – $126 million / $78 million if option is used, $65 million if it isn’t
Now, does that make the Jays signing of Bautista make you feel a little better? They maintained his contract well within a range that allows for them to make other moves if his power diminishes, and the term is a lot more team friendly than it might have been if he hit the FA market after the season. After all, if the Nationals are willing to pay Werth that much, how much would they pay for the HR king and player who finished 4th in MVP voting?
I get where fans are coming from in terms of not wanting the team to commit much to players after they were snake-bitten by Vernon Wells and his massive deal. But, I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that Jose would get a lot more than what the Jays paid if he hit the free agent market and repeats something close to 2010. Could the Jays afford to wait until that point, when he repeats, to try to sign him? When he’s so close to free agency and his agent is telling him to wait?
In my humblest of opinions, this is a great signing, at a decent price, which could be a key piece to putting the Jays back on the map when it comes to signing free agents. The fan debates will continue until 2011 ends, and by then we should all know if this will be Alex Anthopoulos’s first mistake, or yet another coup. My point here is that this signing pales in comparison to some of the market values, so it’s not a gross mistake like the Nationals signing of Werth was. Not even close.