Of all the years for Jose Bautista to land on the disabled list twice, and of all the years for Joey Bats to have one of the worst seasons statistically of his career, this was the most ill-timed.
2016 has not panned out as Jose Bautista planned. He arrived to Spring Training and immediately laid down his contract demands, and it feels like he’s been in a downward spiral ever since.
While Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders are making their cases to be paid handsomely this winter, Jose Bautista will look on and wonder “what if”. What if Bautista had stayed healthy this season and put up great numbers entering free agency. Or what if he played it cool and wasn’t so forthright?
Due to the recent turn of events, Jose Bautista’s value as a free agent has tumbled astronomically. One can only speculate where his value is currently, but Bautista will certainly make a lot less than he was supposed to.
The nature in which Jose Bautista sustained these recent injuries was totally unpredictable, but they were injuries nonetheless. Regardless of whether a player gets hurt due to poor conditioning or they simply stumble on artificial turf, that player is no good to a team when they can’t stay on the field.
From the beginning, Bautista drew a hard line in his negotiations with the new front office regime, and they didn’t relent or cave to fan base or external influence. Mark Shaprio and Ross Atkins didn’t do anything drastic with Jose Bautista, and so far, it’s paid off for the Blue Jays.
It’s reached the point where Bautista may consider accepting a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays (assuming that they give him one). That’s a long way to fall; from being a $150 million dollar man to a $17 million dollar man.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”Stephen Brunt” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”18″]You can’t pay him for reputation. You can’t pay Jose Bautista for a bat flip, either.[/perfectpullquote]
Regardless of what happens with Bautista down the stretch, it’s safe to assume the Blue Jays will extend a qualifying offer. At the very least, Jose Bautista nets a draft pick, and the Blue Jays need as many of those prospects as they can get.
I wonder if Jose Bautista might accept a qualifying offer in the hopes of using 2017 as a year to re-establish some value and then hit the open market in 2017 instead in the hopes of getting of landing a sizable contract.
But considering that Ian Kennedy miraculously fetched a four-year/$70 million dollar deal last winter, surely there’s some team out there that will give Jose Bautista something better than the standard qualifying offer.
If anything, this whole roller coaster experience with Jose Bautista this season has taught us a very valuable cautionary tale about signing aging players to sizable contracts. Bautista earned his supposed asking price on merit alone, but contracts aren’t awarded that way.
The ever-wise Stephen Brunt had this to say on Sportsnet 590 The Fan yesterday in regards to Jose Bautista and signing him long-term:
“That idea of paying for somebody for what they were and what they’ve been and what they’ve meant, that’s a really bad way to run a baseball team.
You have to pay them for what they’re going to be. You establish value in sports by what you’ve already done. But the tricky part is trying to understand and anticipate what the value of what that asset is going to be.
You can’t pay him for reputation. You can’t pay Jose Bautista for a bat flip, either.”
In that respect, I’m thankful Shapiro and Atkins were removed from the situation and didn’t have any prior bias or preference towards the player. The front office can look at this situation with a fresh set of eyes and not worry about upholding some “vision” or obligation from the previous regime.
So how much has Jose Bautista hurt his value? Even if he comes back off the disabled list, goes on a tear down the stretch, carries the Blue Jays through the postseason and hits a World Series-winning home run, there’s no way he’s getting anything remotely close to $150 million this winter … not even close.
Prior to his stints on the disabled list this year, Jose Bautista may have been in line for a four or five-year deal, but this is just my guess – now he might not get anything beyond a three-year/$45 million dollar deal.
Baseball really is a “what have you done for me lately” sport. Although Jose Bautista has posted ungodly numbers since 2010, none of that holds much weight if he can’t stay healthy. Case in point: Michael Saunders (who had trouble staying healthy the two previous seasons) will probably get a better deal than Jose Bautista this offseason.
Michael Saunders is also six years younger than Jose Bautista, but Bautista has the track record and a much vaster level of experience. But Michael Saunders is six years younger – and has avoided the DL this season – and he’s also six years younger than Bautista.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”18″]Michael Saunders will probably get a better deal than Jose Bautista this offseason.[/perfectpullquote]
It’s belabouring the point, but this all hearkens back to what Stephen Brunt said; it’s bad business to sign a baseball player based on past performance and/or what they’ve done for the organization. If you sign players based on emotion, it often leads to heartbreak.
I don’t doubt that Jose Bautista will get a contract offer this offseason, but I’m not convinced it will be from the Toronto Blue Jays. As this team is attempting to get younger and more cost-controllable, inking Jose Bautista doesn’t make much sense; especially if it precludes them from re-signing Edwin Encarnacion or even Michael Saunders.
Jose Bautista has given a lot to the Toronto Blue Jays organization; and the organization has given a lot to him. But I’m afraid these injuries may have reinforced the front office’s pre-existing stance towards refraining from re-signing players like Jose Bautista to big-money contracts after age 35.