Negotiations between the Toronto Blue Jays and Jose Bautista are making for high drama already in spring camp, but a patient approach may be most efficient
Jose Bautista has put a price tag on the services of Jose Bautista.
Reports on Tuesday indicated that the Blue Jays star was seeking a five-year contract worth north of $30 million annually, thus making him one of the highest-paid positional players in baseball.
Both due to the nature of the report and the unreasonable numbers involved, I cautioned to take a wait-and-see approach. It appears that Bautista, himself, sides with skepticism.
The issue here is not only that Toronto cannot (and would not) pay Bautista $150+ million over five years. It’s that no major league team would be likely to do so, especially when the tail end of that contract pushes the right-fielder into his 40s. It would not be the first contract of its kind, of course, but organizations have learned from their high-salaried mistakes.
Unless Bautista’s asking price is already within a couple million dollars of what Toronto is comfortable with annually, in which case they can act sooner rather than later, time may be the Blue Jays strongest and safest bargaining chip.
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More specifically, is it possible for Bautista to increase his value in 2016? Is there anything the 35-year-old can do that he hasn’t already done to actually boost his annual value? I’d argue that anything short of a near-MVP campaign would only keep his market value afloat at its current level.
With that, the Blue Jays can afford to wait. It is by no means Plan A, but as a Plan B, there are worse options.
Major league teams have won the World Series with stars on expiring contracts. This is not new, and with Bautista more financially motivated to perform than he has been in his entire career, the Blue Jays can maximize the final year of this contract and enter offseason negotiations with a clearer understanding of his league-wide market.
This market will not be as simple as, say, a 29-year-old’s. The fourth and fifth years of a potential contract will be negotiating trump cards, and admittedly, opening up the services of Bautista to the rest of the league does not increase Toronto’s chances of signing him.
It does, however, increase their chances of negotiating with Bautista at a more reasonable level, assuming his current demands do not already rest there.
In an ideal world, Bautista signed on the dotted line yesterday. However, with a fan base anxious to get back in the baseball groove after a long offseason, there’s an appetite for haste. Patience, while not the sexy option, is an option nonetheless.