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Should the Jays Consider Trading Jose Bautista?


Today at fangraphs.com, Dave Cameron posted his top 10 most valuable trade assets in baseball: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2011-trade-value-10-1/

The list is constructed (1-50) each season by Cameron, and its goal is to assess the “league-wide demand for a player’s services if that player was made available in the trade market.” The two major factors in the measurement of value are the player’s skill, and their contract status.

Coming in at number 2 on this years list, is Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista. Here’s what Dave Cameron had to say about his ranking:

“I debated putting Bautista at #1 for quite a while. No player in baseball has more present value than the Blue Jays slugger, who is currently in the midst of one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen. At just $14 million per year for each of the next four years, he’s producing at a best-player-in-baseball level while getting paid a little less than Jason Bay or Adam Dunn. The Blue Jays saved themselves at least $100 million with the extension they gave Bautista last winter, which now looks like one of the best decisions any GM has ever made. But, in the end, as good as Bautista is he just couldn’t quite reach the top spot on this list. He’s fantastic, but he’s also 30-years-old, and there’s still some lingering question about how long he can keep this up. The package is good enough to be the second most valuable asset in baseball.”

It is pretty clear by now that Jose Bautista has been the best player in baseball this season. His numbers are posted all over this site, however I can’t help but take this opportunity to put them up one more time.

GP 85/PA 379/H 101/HR 31/R 74/RBI 65/2B 15/3B 1/BB 75/AVG .336/OBP .470/SLG .701/wOBA .487/ WAR 6.9

He leads the league in home runs, walks, on base percentage, slugging, and plays adequate defense at both third base and right field. He is having a historically great season, as fangraphs Eric Seidman wrote last week: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/jose-bautistas-historic-pace/

Jose Bautista is incredible. However, the 2011 Blue Jays are not. This begs the question, should the Jays trade Jose Bautista?

There are two questions that should be asked when debating whether or not the Jays should trade Jose Bautista. 1- Will the Jays contend during Bautista’s Blue Jay tenure (signed through 2016)? 2- Is Bautista at the peak of his trade value?

The first question is the most difficult, as it is virtually impossible to accurately determine how competitive the Blue Jays will be in 2012, let alone in 2013 and beyond. We know that the Jays farm system has garnered rave reviews this year by all of the major prospect ranking authorities (top 5 by Baseball America, Keith Law, and Baseball Prospectecus), but this is unfortunately, no guarantee of future success. The future looks bright, particularly when you consider the promises of larger payrolls made by Paul Beeston, and the expected expansion of the playoff format; but there is still so much work and time to pass before this question will be answered.

There is also the question of much Jose Bautista’s play will decline as he ages. Already 30 years old, it is impossible to expect that Bautista will continue to put up the numbers he has in 11’ through the next 5 seasons. Will the decline be slow enough that J-Bau can still be a very effective player by the time the Jays contend? The answer is probably yes, but isn’t it possible that the pieces the Jays could bring back in a Bautista deal could be even more productive in future, competitive seasons?

The second question is much easier to answer, as it is obvious that Bautista is at the peak of his value as a baseball player. His numbers are currently the best in baseball, period (1st in HR, WAR, SLG, OBP, wOBA). He still has 5+ years left on his extremely team-friendly contract, and as mentioned before, he is not getting any younger.

The decision to trade Jose Bautista would of course, depend entirely upon the package of players who would come back to the Jays. This is always the biggest question mark, however it is possible that the Jays could receive a deal which would actually provide more production and value for their potential contending seasons, than Jose Bautista.

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