There has been a lot of bombast about the Blue Jays trading Jose Bautista. Is the idea as crazy/unthinkable as some say?
It is rumoured (ah, the joy of trade deadline season!) that teams have been calling the Jays and asking about the availability of Jose Bautista. Reaction among the Toronto fanbase has been largely negative, with some writers saying that the possibility is so remote that it “makes zero sense“.
Now me, I enjoy discussing remote possibilities.
So let’s look at some of the arguments against a Joey B trade, particularly in light of recent events.
Jose has 10-5 rights, so he can not be traded
This is incorrect. A player with 10-5 rights *can* be traded, just only with his permission.
Jose loves Toronto. He would never leave.
Jose may very well enjoy playing in Toronto, but he has already said that every player should experience free agency once in his career and that he does not plan to negotiate further with the Jays this season. He has also said that he would not give the Jays a home team discount. Hardly sounds like a player who would not even consider other possibilities. And even if Jose were traded, there is nothing to prevent him coming back to Toronto in 2017.
Jose has no financial incentive to accept a trade
If Jose is traded mid-season, the acquiring team can not make a qualifying offer after the 2016 season. That means that the team that ultimately signs him does not lose a draft pick. A #11-20 draft pick is worth roughly $20 million. So, in a logical world, a team would give Jose $20 more over the life of his contract if they did not lose the pick. $20 million is a big number, even to Jose.
And second, with Toronto’s recent acquisition of Melvin Upton Jr., it is very possible that Jose will be seeing (a lot) more time at DH and 1B if he stays in Toronto. That could hurt his ability to market himself (particularly to NL teams) as a viable right fielder. A team like the Nats might well be prepared to promise Jose that they will not use him as a DH for the remainder of the season.
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Jose wants a World Series ring. Toronto is his best chance.
As I write this, FanGraphs projects the Jays’ chance of winning the 2016 World Series at 7.7%. That is 4th best in the AL (behind Boston, Cleveland and Houston) and 7th best overall. Washington, who were rumoured to have interest in Jose, has an estimated 13% chance (almost double Toronto’s) and are ranked second overall behind the Cubs.
The Jays can’t afford to lose Jose
Jose has 0.8 fWAR so far in 2016, with 300 plate appearances. Melvin has 1.5 in 379 PAs (call it 1.2 per 300 PAs). It is not clear that, when you consider both offence and defence, Upton is that much of a downgrade.
Of course, it is possible (probable?) that Jose could be used primarily at DH and 1B for the remainder of 2016. This would increase his value by eliminating the defensive negative. But this strategy also has drawbacks. First, as noted above, Jose might not be happy to have the Jays diminish his FA value. And it is not clear that Jose would be able to play 1B (his lifetime UZR/150 there is -8.3, albeit in a small sample size) so he might be limited to DH. This would force Edwin to play 1B every day, increasing the risk of injury, and it would preclude the Jays from using the DH spot to rest Mikey, Josh and Tulo
The Jays would never get enough value
Some writers believe that Jose’s poor (by his standards) 2016, compounded by a nagging injury, would decrease his value to the point where teams would not offer enough to justify a trade (and the loss of a compensatory draft pick, if Jose moved elsewhere at the end of 2016).
To me, the answer to that is obvious. If the Jays did not get an offer that they believed made their team better, they should just keep Jose. But I am not as sure that a strong offer might not be forthcoming. Washington, in particular, is a serious Series contender despite having a team wRC+ of 98, 13th best in the majors and 5th best in the NL. They are close enough this year that they might well pay top prospect dollar for a player who could put them over the top. Cleveland, too, is said to be looking for a corner outfielder with strong offence.
The bottom line
I think it is unlikely that the Jays would trade Jose this year. But to suggest that such a trade makes zero sense, particularly in light of the Upton trade, makes even less sense. I would hope that, if teams do come calling, the Jays would at least pick up the phone.