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Pay The Man

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures

Well, it turns out the Blue Jays 13 year streak of avoiding salary arbitration may not be in jeopardy after all.

In light of some new developments, Alex Anthopoulos announced the team has postponed their salary arbitration with Jose Bautista. That can only mean one thing; they are definitely working on signing Bautista to a multi-year deal.

It’s a bit surprising because like many others, I expected the hearing would go down as planned. Then all of a sudden, there was word it had been postponed and that’s when the floodgates opened.



Since the Silent Assassin is so tight-lipped about contract negotiations, we won’t hear a peep about it until the ink dries on the new contract. The particulars of a contract extension are a little fuzzy, but I’m here to say that it’s definitely a positive thing the Blue Jays are moving towards locking up Jose Bautista.

Worst case scenario is the Blue Jays sign Bautista to a multi-year deal and he ends up being a complete bust. That’s why there are such things as club options and buyouts; so teams have an exit strategy just in case players turn out to be a huge flop.

Rest assured though, Alex Anthopoulos will not make the same mistake as previous regimes and be hand-cuffed by an outrageous deal. He’s a very crafty cat and will find some way to make sure the team won’t be on the hook for another Vernon Wells version 2.0 contract.

Even if Jose Bautista doesn’t return to his preeminent self, it doesn’t mean the Blue Jays will have to shell out money for the entire contract either. If AA7 can get the Vernon Wells contract off the books, he can get any contract off the books.

There are negative side effects of signing a player to a big contract, but there are also a lot of positives. For example, signing Jose Bautista now could end up working in favour of the Blue Jays if he continues to perform well above market value.

As talented as some of the Blue Jays prospects are, at this point they’re still prospects. Guys like Anthony Gose, Brett Lawrie, Jake Marisnick and Adeiny Hechavarria still have a long way to go to make it to the show.

There are no guarantees they will become the stars we are hoping they will be. Proof of that was very evident when the Jays traded Brett Wallace. He was not the player they thought he was, and so they had to abandon ship and find another solution.

So in that sense, it makes perfect sense to ink Jose Bautista to a long-term deal because he has quantifiable major league experience and talent. We know he can play with the big boys, and he should be paid as such.

It’s also in the best interest of Jose Bautista to sign a contract now because if he completely flops in 2011, then he could have an extremely tough time commanding a multi-year deal as a free agent.

If I’m Jose Bautista, I’d much rather take the security of a long-term contract than risk testing the free agent waters. It will likely mean taking a little less money now, but that’s the price you pay when you commit to a long-term contract.

Even if Bautista inks a deal with the Blue Jays before his rescheduled arbitration hearing, remember that it doesn’t mean he’s untouchable. Another solid year on his part could make him an extremely valuable trade commodity, especially if his base salary is reasonable.

However, I don’t think that’s something Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays are looking at doing right away; signing Jose Bautista to a multi-year contract, building up his value, and then trading him.

Although it’s paramount for an assassin to be cold and calculated, that’s just not the way the Blue Jays are doing business these days. If Bautista signs long-term, I’m certain he’ll be sticking around for the long haul.

Like I alluded to earlier, there are no guarantees with prospects and the very same bodes for major league players. No one knows for certain what Jose Bautista is capable of in 2011 and beyond.  He could hit 50 home runs, or he could hit 5. Nonetheless, that’s a risk I’d be willing to take.

Just pay the man, Alex.

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Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his son for the next 20 years.

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10 Comments

  1. Peter DeMarco

    February 15, 2011 - 2:36 pm

    Ian, I tend to agree with you that the Jays should sign Bautista to a long term deal now, depending on his asking price of course.

    I think the Jays can't continue to put all of their eggs in the eternal prospect/draft pick acquisition business and they need to start locking up proven commodities, such as their attempt to trade for Grienke or signing Bautista to a long term deal. Of course one could argue that Bautista is anything but a proven commodity, but if they believe he's a 30 home run 100 BB guy, there aren't to many of those types of players around.

    Let's say for guestimation sake that Bautista and the Jays split the difference in the arbitration asking price for this year and then take on another 4 years at $10-$12 million a season, this would result in approximately a 5 year $55 million dollar deal. I sure as hell could live with that considering what players were given as a free agents this off season.

    Bautista is not going to suck this year, at worst he will revert to a 20 home run player with a decent eye, but most likely he will be a bit better than that and could be much better. I say get it done.

  2. Anonymous

    February 15, 2011 - 2:52 pm

    I'd offer 2 years guaranteed at 21M with a club option for 3-5 more years at big bucks, which the club needs to exercise after 2011 (similar to the mechanics of the Aaron Hill deal). From the Joey Bats perspective, if he performs in 2011, he gets his big pay day. If he reverts to average, he still has a 2 year deal at 10.5M (his asking price)
    From the club perspective, they pay a bit extra (there is a good chance they win the arbitration so they are giving up 3M in 2011 and guaranteeing 10.5M in 2012) in exchange for first rights to pull the trigger on a big deal after 2011. They also make sure that the Yankees can't just come in and outbid them.

    win/win, right?

  3. Ian - BJH

    February 15, 2011 - 4:17 pm

    Peter, that's exactly it. The Blue Jays are building the right way, but what happens if one of those prospects falls through the cracks? Bautista may not be a "proven" talent, but I can't see his defensive contributions dropping off very much over the coming years.

    4 years at $40 million with a club option for a fifth year sounds pretty reasonable right now.

    Anon, knowing AA's craftiness I'd say there will definitely be club options built into that contract. I can't see them going any less than 3 years guaranteed, maybe even 4 years. The Blue Jays will end up paying a little more money up front, but if he has another solid year then his asking price skyrockets and the Yankees immediately price out the Blue Jays. Pay the man!

  4. Bob File Has a Posse

    February 15, 2011 - 8:38 pm

    As I understand it, Elias rankings for Type A and Type B free agents stay for 2 years. Would there be an advantage to signing him for 2 years and hoping he doesn't accept arbitration later?

  5. Ian - BJH

    February 15, 2011 - 9:46 pm

    Bob, that's right, Elias rankings only take into account the previous 2 seasons, but with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on the horizon, that could all change entirely.

    But if things stand as is, I can't see Bautista to agreeing to anything for less than 3 years anyway.

  6. sadp

    February 16, 2011 - 1:30 am

    If they sign him to a team-friendly deal and he regresses to pre-2010 Bautista, no big deal.

    If they sign him to a team-friendly deal and he mashes, awesome.

    If they trade him for prospects, awesome.

    No matter what happens the Jays win (or at least don't lose).

  7. Ian - BJH

    February 16, 2011 - 3:45 pm

    sadp, you're right – no matter what, at least the Blue Jays will salvage something (whether it be picks or locking up Bautista long-term). I'd rather see them sign him than let him walk, but we'll see what happens before Friday!

  8. Roberto

    February 17, 2011 - 4:02 am

    5/65 is too many years. The dollars per year, I can live with.

  9. Dave

    February 17, 2011 - 4:35 am

    Look what you did, Ian. LOOK WHAT YOU DID!

  10. Ian - BJH

    February 17, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Robbie, I'll wait and see until it's official, but I don't think the contract is that bad, it's just the length that scares me a little bit. Hopefully there's a club option in there or something.

    Dave, I take full responsibility for this one. I asked the Blue Jays to pay him, and looks like they will do it very handsomely.

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