February 17, 2011
Alex Anthopoulos might have a hole burnt through his pocket this morning. Less than a month after freeing himself from the financially strapping Vernon Wells(notes) deal, the Toronto Blue Jays GM is reportedly set to give a big chunk of that money to 2010's most unexpected breakout star, Jose Bautista(notes).
According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, the impending agreement would be a five-year deal worth $65 million. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal adds that he's hearing there's an option for a sixth year worth another $13 million. That leads you to believe we're closing in on what might be another questionable long-term commitment for the Blue Jays franchise.
Bautista, a 30-year-old outfielder/third baseman, caught everyone off guard when he belted 54 home runs and knocked in 124 runs last season. Those numbers tripled and doubled his previous high marks respectively. The Jays can't possibly — or sanely — expect Bautista to approach those numbers again, especially the home run total. But the good news is that they won't need him to come close to make the contract worthwhile.
Bautista has to be something like a +3.5 win player next year, and then age normally each year after that. Or, to put it into 2010 player terms, Bautista essentially needs to be about as good as Casey McGehee(notes) was last year. McGehee hit .285/.337/.464 while playing below average defense at third base.
Somewhere the real Casey McGehee is taking note of this development.
Despite Cameron's best efforts, though, Blue Jays blog Drunk Jays Fans isn't completely sold on the extension.
As easy as it is to say that the Jays had risk, too — the thought of having to pay him Jayson Werth(notes) or Vernon Wells money to keep him when they could have had him now for a lot less is pretty daunting — let's not forget that they're not playing for this season anyway, and should have been able to trade him for a hell of a lot if his play had priced him out of their plans.
Assuming this deal gets done, I would lean a little toward DJF's point of view. The Jays had options before making this commitment, including re-signing Bautista down the line. Now they're locked into something similar to the Wells contract they needed a California-sized miracle to get out of.
The risk of being in that position again, especially so quickly after giving yourself some much needed financial flexibility, would seemingly outweigh the rewards of Bautista living up to the deal. After all, who are they going to have around him if all that money is committed to his wallet?