Jose Bautista has been the most interesting free agent on the market since turning down the Blue Jays’ qualifying offer of one year, $17.2 million, a number that nobody expected to be close to what he’d settle for, even coming off a down season by his standards and turning 36.
Nearing Christmas, that salary isn’t looking half bad for Bautista, but the Blue Jays’ haven’t offered him anything higher according to a Monday report from Jon Morosi.
Toronto isn’t alone in this regard. Bautista would have accepted a two-year deal from the Red Sox, according to an earlier report from Nick Cafardo, but Boston went shorter and cheaper at 1B/DH with Mitch Moreland on a one-year, $5.5 million deal.
Other teams in need of an outfield or DH power bat have done the same, including the Houston Astros signing Carlos Beltran to one year at $16 million, the Texas Rangers bringing back Carlos Gomez for one year at $11.5 million, and the Yankees bringing in Matt Holliday for one year and $13 million.
Even more important than the dollar figures, none of these required a draft pick to be forfeited.
That the Blue Jays haven’t gone over the qualifying offer to Bautista isn’t terribly shocking, and there’s a legitimate reason to question whether the Blue Jays would even sign Bautista to a one-year deal that came in well under $17.2 million at this point.
This all comes down to how highly the Blue Jays value the compensatory draft pick that they’d be forfeiting by bringing back Bautista — one they’d be receiving if he were to sign elsewhere. Picking at the back end of the first round is a crapshoot, but if both Bautista and Encarnacion find new homes, the Blue Jays would have three cracks.
The Blue Jays have found success in this range in the past, especially on the mound with Marcus Stroman (22nd, 2012), Aaron Sanchez (34th, 2010), Noah Syndergaard (38th, 2010), and Brett Cecil (38th, 2007). Of course, those names are surrounded by a much larger group of players selected in the first round or soon after that never did develop into impactful pieces for the Blue Jays. Such is the nature of the MLB Draft.
Perhaps the Blue Jays only find a fringe-level starter closer to the value of Lonnie Chisenhall, who Cleveland drafted 29th overall in 2008 with Mark Shapiro as GM. After debuting in 2011, Chisenhall posted a pedestrian cumulative fWAR of 4.6 over his first five seasons. Even then, though, with a minimum salary for a usable young MLB piece, that pick is worth something.
This influx of picks could also stock the Jays’ system with trade chips for down the road, and with three early picks instead of two (assuming Encarnacion signs elsewhere), the Blue Jays can afford to be a little more aggressive in their draft strategy.
There is likely a ballpark figure at how the Blue Jays value the pick they’d be forfeiting by signing Bautista. Perhaps it’s $9.5 million, maybe $14 million depending on their internal analysis. That’s a very inexact science and a fool’s game to guess, but regardless, that number needs to be added to the net acquisition cost of a Bautista (or Encarnacion). If they value the pick at $10 million future value, a one-year, $17.2 million deal quickly becomes $27.2 in the big picture.
Both players could be a difference-maker for the Blue Jays in 2017, but in both cases, the dollars and cents are just half of the conversation.