“Pay me what I want, or I’m out of here”.
That’s essentially what Jose Bautista told reporters today as Spring Training camp officially got underway for the Blue Jays.
The first day at camp is typically a very laid-back and loosey-goosey affair, but Joey Bats wasted absolutely no time at all in making his intentions known about a contract extension. Jose Bautista not only addressed the elephant in the room, he attacked it and put it in a headlock.
Bautista is very adamant on his stance and will not budge from the term and dollar amount he’s asked from the Blue Jays:
“In my eyes, I’ve given this organization a five-year hometown discount already. I’m not willing to negotiate right now, I don’t think there should be a negotiation. The question has been asked and what it will take and I’ve given them an answer.
They either meet it … or it is what it is.”
It’s a very bold move on the part of Jose Bautista’s camp; they’ve now put all the pressure on Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins and Blue Jays ownership. For someone who said they aren’t willing to negotiate, Bautista just kicked this back-and-forth with the Blue Jays into overdrive.
While Edwin Encarnacion took the much more subtle approach, Jose Bautista just came right out with it at his first day of Spring Training. But the status of both these players will loom like a black cloud over the Blue Jays organization until something can get done.
Bautista’s comments were a strong-armed approach, but make no mistake, his move was also one that was very calculated. Jose knows what he’s worth to this team, and that’s why he has a hard dollar figure and term in his mind and isn’t moving off it.
From a PR perspective, this now puts the ball in the Blue Jays’ court; Jose Bautista clearly seems interested in re-signing with the Blue Jays, it’s “only” going to take that magic number to get it done. It puts all the pressure on the Blue Jays now, and if it turns out Bautista walks as a free agent, it makes the front office look bad by not re-signing a player that wanted to come back to Toronto.
I wonder if Jose feels like he needs to get some of the value back that he gave up in his previous contract. Bautista signed an extremely team-friendly deal back in the spring of 2011, and now maybe he feels like he’s owed dividends (with interest) towards his new contract.
At the time of the deal, there was a great deal of risk on both sides; there was the potential that Bautista could’ve been a one-year wonder and the Jays would have to eat the rest of the contract. But luckily, the deal was wildly successful and worked out for both parties.
However, if the Jays are going to get back into the business of paying players whatever they want, that’s where things could begin to get out of hand.
If the Blue Jays were originally hoping to bring Jose Bautista back on a three or four-year deal, I think that’s completely out of the question now; the magic number seems to be $100 million over five years, and nothing less.
As much as I respect and admire Jose Bautista the player, it would be foolish for the Blue Jays to rush into a deal like that in fear of losing him to free agency. The fact remains that he’ll be turning 36 years this year, and as much as Bautista isn’t the prototypical 36-year old baseball player, a deal of that magnitude and term has the potential to go south very quickly.
Bautista clearly knows he’s the most valuable to the Jays, and that’s why he’s employing these strong-arm negotiation tactics with the team. Jose knows the team is in a precarious position with his free agency looming, and as a man who’s been underpaid for the past several years, he finally wants to get paid.
But if things continue to progress in this manner, I really get the sense that Jose Bautista won’t be re-signing with the Blue Jays after all. Even after earning all that good will last offseason and clearly being the better player between him and Edwin Encarnacion, the price could be too steep for the Blue Jays.