Blue Jays: Why you should root against Roberto Osuna in arbitration

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 05: Russell Martin
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 05: Russell Martin /

While I like to see great players rewarded for their performance, I think there’s good cause to root against Roberto Osuna in arbitration this weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Roberto Osuna and I’m very thankful the Blue Jays have a talented young closer to anchor their bullpen. The Mexican fireballer had his arbitration hearing on Friday and while I think he’s worth every penny of the 5.8 million he and his agent asked for, I don’t blame the Blue Jays at all for countering with 5.3 million instead. And this isn’t about performance, at least not for me.

I honestly believe that as Blue Jays fans we can root against Osuna in this hearing, and do it with good intentions. It may be just a difference of $500,000 between the asking and offered price, but it’s the long term effects of the agreed upon figure that mean more in the grand scheme of things. Take Mookie Betts winning his hearing and asking for 10.5 million as opposed to the 7.5 million that was offered from the Boston Red Sox. It’s estimated that could make a 10-12 million dollar difference in his compensation over the life of his current deal, and that makes a difference.

In Osuna’s case, it’s not a three million dollar difference like it was for Betts, but the half million still represents a jump that the Blue Jays would be wise to keep under control. He made a shade over $552,000 last year, so whether he ends up with his figure or the Blue Jays’ after arbitration has concluded, he’s set to make a lot more money than he’s ever seen before. That said, it also represents a difference in what he’ll be able to ask for next year when they come to this stage again, assuming he has another solid season closing out games.

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Which is why I feel that we’re justified in cheering against the talented right-hander in this case, especially if we’re fans of his work. Because the reality is, as he gets more expensive in coming seasons, the front office may be less inclined to pay that type of premium for a one inning specialist. I realize the game has evolved a lot in regards to the importance of the bullpen, but the Blue Jays haven’t been big spenders in this area, and I’m not sure I see that changing in the near future. Don’t believe me? As of this writing the biggest contract handed to a reliever since Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have taken over was three million for one season, to both J.P. Howell and Joe Smith in last season’s free agent market.

There were rumours that GMs around baseball have asked about the 2017 All-Star as a trade piece, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. The Blue Jays had a rough season last year and finished with 76 wins, so GMs asked about others like Josh Donaldson as well, hoping that a rebuild would begin North of the border. Fortunately, the star players remain and they intend to compete in 2018.

Again, I don’t think the Blue Jays have a big problem paying Osuna 5.8 million for 2018, but will they feel a little different when he’s asking for 10 million for 2019, or closer to 15 million by 2020? Will they be willing to spend that kind of dough on their closer when they’ve got other talented arms like Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes, Carlos Ramirez, and more coming through the system? We won’t know the answer to these questions until things play out, but I think it’s a very real possibility that the Blue Jays and their fans will need to consider.

Maybe I’ve read Shapiro and Atkins all wrong, but I fear that in time Osuna could be deemed as “too expensive”, or a less than ideal use of payroll, which is why I’ll root against his raise getting too big. I’d like to see him finishing games in Toronto for years to come, so it’s not as if I feel he’s unworthy of the contract he seeks, but rather that value what he brings to the table, and I hope the Blue Jays express that to him regardless of who “wins” the hearing this weekend.

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