Now I want to start this off saying that I am not trying to call out Bautista for getting upset with the umpires, or calling him a bad leader because he isn’t Canadian. If Bautista was in fact the terrible person that those who watch the Jays on TV seem to think he is I doubt the team would have gambled on a long term deal with him. In fact as a player I think Bautista is simply superb, I consider myself lucky for getting to see his 2010 and 2011 seasons. Seeing any player dominate the game offensively is a blast, but when he plays for your favourite team, it’s even more of a delight. If you’re someone who thinks the Jays should trade him now or in the offseason, you are to put it kindly… foolish, Jose Bautista is an integral piece of this Blue Jays team and as currently constructed they need him…
But when it comes down to Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays rebuild Bautista was the ultimate wrench in the plan. Going into 2010 the Jays had dealt Roy Halladay let Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas walk for draft pick compensation and seemed to be ready to go in full on Astros mode and sell off the remaining assets and build up the system for an endless supply of homegrown talent a la the Rays except with ownership having the money to lock up top performers as need be.
The plan seemed smart and was acceptable to Jay’s fans until Bautista decided to show up and be second best offensive player in the league for two seasons. Second only to Miguel Cabrera. I understand many of you may be getting douche chills seeing me complain about a player who hit 22 more home runs than the next closest player over that two year span.
And this is where the problem arose. Obviously trading a player of this talent would net a significant prospect haul, but by dealing Jose the Jays would have been in the middle of an optics nightmare. It would have seemed like they were turning into Marlins North (funny how that worked out), selling off an emerging superstar fresh on the heels of the Roy Halladay deal, it would appear the team was crying poor and wasn’t committed to winning.
Then there are the questions from a purely baseball standpoint, would whatever prospect windfall they get in return plant the seeds for a player of Bautista’s caliber. Would it not be easier to try to build around a 50 home run guy in his prime then turning into the Royals and be perpetually waiting for your prospects to mature. So the Jays made the only real choice they could make and locked him up to a fairly solid deal in terms of risk/reward for both parties. But this is where the organization seemed to come to an impasse in terms of their modus operandi there was not a well-balanced split between focusing on maintaining the farm, while also supplement the big league club with win now pieces while Bautista was raking.
Take the Vernon Wells deal for instance, miraculously the Jays unload the albatross on the Angels and get back a serviceable player who plays a position we have a hole at, in Mike Napoli. Napoli is subsequently flipped for a reliever in hopes of getting an extra draft pick sooner. Would the Bautista led Jays not have been better off with Napoli’s bat in the lineup? So that move was made looking to the future. But then Henderson Alverez is rushed to the majors before he’s developed a strikeout pitch. His spot in The Show should have been held by some Quad -A cannon fodder if the Jays were focusing on development. Instead they rush a promising pitcher with an electric arm into action before he was ready.
With the mashing Bautista in the middle of the Jay’s lineups the front office seemed to be torn in two opposite directions in terms of building the big league roster. When you look around the league during that time and see things like Zack Wheeler being traded for two months of Carlos Beltran it’s almost depressing to think of the haul of blue chippers the Jay’s could have gotten for Bautista. Obviously by dealing him you create another hole to fill, but with the struggles of this years pitching staff, its clear that having a few big time arms ready to step in would have been excellent.
Looking at it all though I can’t help but be glad we have Jose, sure it may have changed timelines a little. But in all honestly some of the developmental rushing may have been due to the crappy location of the team’s AAA affiliate. Sure it would have been cool to gush over prospect porn for years and hoping we’d have a staff of Cy Young contenders emerge from our farm system and good Canadian boy Brett Lawrie to lead us to the promised land. But let’s face it so many prospects never pan out, and I much prefer getting to watch Bautista murder the ball season after season and give epic death stares like this one. So let’s all be thankful we get the chance to watch Bautista in a Jay’s uniform.