It’s becoming more evident each game that goes by that the Toronto Blue Jays owe Alex Anthopoulos and all of his evaluators a huge thank you for locking up what has turned out to be a top-5 player in all of MLB, at a discount no less.
He’s leading the league in HRs once again thus far into 2011, and is not only showing his power this season, as he has also added a much better average, OBP, and speed to his game. At 30 years old, such a performance begs the question: just exactly how much money did Jose Bautista and his agent, Bean Stringfellow, leave on the table?
I wondered around MLB looking for comparable contracts in recent years. It’s tough to come up with an exact match since no single player has ever burst onto the scene in a manner comparable to Bautista, not to mention at his age. But, I did come up with one comparable in Mark Texeira’s 2009 contract with the Yankees. I thought of using Adrian Beltre’s 5-year $80 million deal with the Rangers, but I personally feel that Bautista’s offensive output can be projected to be much higher as they both get older. So, I went with Mark Teixeira, who I believe we can all agree is one of the best players in MLB at this point.
Before signing his contract in 2009, Mark Teixiera had the following stats:
574 AB / 177 hits / 41 doubles / 33 HRs / 121 RBI / 2 SB / 97 BB / 93 SO / .308 AVG / .410 OBP / .552 SLG / 4.0 WAR
Before signing his contract, Jose Bautista had the following stats:
569 AB / 148 hits / 35 doubles / 3 triples / 54 HR / 124 RBI / 9 SB / 100 BB / 116 SO / .260 AVG / .378 OBP / .617 SLG / 5.7 WAR
The 2 sets of stats are fairly comparable, with the note that Bautista’s boost over Teixeira would lie in the Slugging % and speed, while Teixeira’s boost over Bautista lies in the higher AVG and OBP.
Just for fun, I’ve projected Jose Bautista’s stats in 2011 to match his AB numbers of 2010 which add up to the following:
569 AB / 207 hits / 38 doubles / 5 triples / 65 HRs / 114 RBI / 21 SB / 186 BB / 103 SO / .365 AVG / .525 OBP / .798 SLG
Those stats are crazy good. Let’s just say that he’s MORE than earning his contract thus far and could actually boost his stock quite a bit this season. To say that he could match Mark Teixeira‘s contract with that kind of performance then, in my opinion, is very realistic and could actually be lower than what he would have received the first and second year of the contract. I’m not saying he’ll land 8 years as Mark did because they’re at different points in their careers at the time of the signing, but the value overall for the length of time (5 years) should be very similar. Actually, a case could be made that Jose Bautista’s versatility in being able to man RF, 3B, and like most other players, 1B, boosts his value as well, but I’ll let that slide so that we can compare apples to apples.
In 2009, at 29 years of age, Mark Teixiera signed an 8-year $180,000 contract that is to see him get paid $20 million in 2009 and 2010, and $22.5 million from 2011 through 2016. He also got a full no trade clause, and the right to purchase the “8 of best available Yankees season tickets“.
Jose Bautista, having just turned 30, signed a 5-year $65 million contract that is to see him get $8 million in 2011, and $14 million from 2012 through 2015. The Jays have a $14 million option for the 2016 season with a $1 million buy out. There is no trade clause, and no “side agreement” in the contract.
So, why the big difference in size of deals? And why in the world would you sign such a deal if you’re Jose Bautista?
Well, for Jose we all know that the down side of his performance was his low average, and the fact that he had only done it once. Mark already had multiple seasons of 30 HRs or more and 100 RBIs or more all with nice lines to back them up with. The reasons Jose signed the deal, I assume, is because he is very happy in Toronto, wanted the long-term security, and was ready to settle in as the team’s undisputed leader. Who knows, with a contract distracting him it’s quite possible that his 2011 stats wouldn’t be as strong as they currently are! It’s possible.
Back to the contracts.
The difference between the 2 deals through 2016 – assuming Bautista’s option is picked up in 2016, which is no guarantee – will be $8.5 million per season for a total of $42.5 million!!!
Now, that figure assumes that Jose Bautista could go out on the free agent market and land a Mark Teixiera style $22.5 million contract for 2012-2016, which would add up to $112.5 million. Having seen what the Washington Nationals handed a player like Jayson Werth, you have to believe that SOMEONE out there would be willing to throw something close to that amount Jose Bautista’s way. The Red Sox had already asked for him in trade and JD Drew, as well as possibly David Ortiz, may not be in Boston for 2012, so they would have been serious bidders for his services with cash in hand.
But, to give us a floor, let’s assume for one moment that sensible heads prevail (mostly due to his age), and that he tops out at $20 million per season for a total of $100 million, a nice crisp number to work with. That contract would likely come with a no trade clause, since Jose would now have another year of stats to back up his demands, and could also include a few other perks. Such a contract would still add $6 million per season to what he is currently expected to make with the Jays for a grand total of $30 million.
And what if the Nationals owner wanted to keep to his spending ways and surpassed the deal handed to Werth in terms of yearly value? Werth is set to make $21 million per season from 2015 through 2017. It’s quite possible that for someone of Bautista’s makeup, the Nationals would have spent up to $25 million per season for his services. Think about a lineup that would have Bryce Harper walking up to the plate with little pressure because Bautista is already in the lineup mashing and Werth and others are expected to produce. I’m sure that would have been enticing. At $25 million per season, Bautista would have netter $125 million over 5 years for a total of $55 million more than he is expected to make at this point if the Jays pick up their 2016 option through that same time period.
Therefore, it is my assertion that Jose Bautista, if he had not signed a long-term deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, could have landed somewhere in the neighborhood of a low of $30 million, more likely around $42.5 million, and at a high of $55 million more with a team, possibly even the Blue Jays if in the middle portion, after the 2011 season ended.
Those are my thoughts on Jose Bautista’s contract and how I believe Alex Anthopoulos once again proved to make the right decision while at the helm. His legacy is building with every deal, and this one is a bigger discount than any I have seen in recent years. Jays ownership must have absolute faith in him and his skills at this point, and if he comes up with a plan to land a big ticket free agent in the future, it seems to me that all of these great deals should add up to one giant YES coming out of the mouths of the owners as they sign the contract.
Jose Bautista may have left money on the table. What Jays fans want to know now is whether or not it will result in more money being spent to build a support cast around him. Because if they don’t reinvest the money at some point in the near future, I’m fairly certain Jays fans all over will let Anthopoulos and the Jays hear all about it!
(All figures used in this article were courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.)