What Is Colby Rasmus' Worth to the Toronto Blue Jays?

The Young Outfielder Is Heading into Final Year of Arbitration Eligibility

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Toronto Blue Jays have some major decisions to make, and one of them involves an outfielder that will be looking to get paid sooner rather than later.

Colby Rasmus is entering the final year of arbitration-eligibility in the offseason before hitting full-fledged free agency in the winter of 2014. And while he clearly isn't the caliber of player that Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo or Mike Trout are, he isn't just your everyday serviceable player, either. He's turned out to be more than that.

Acquired from St. Louis in 2011, Rasmus has become a steady anchor in the Toronto lineup, in the field and at the plate. He's been a bright spot on a team that has had very few of them in a disappointing 2013 campaign.

He's become a versatile player with the ability to play multiple positions in the outfield without showing signs of struggling, as shown by his 98% fielding percentage as of July 26.

At the plate, Rasmus is on pace to best his 23 home runs from a year ago and blow past his .223 batting average from last season, which happened to be his first full year with the Blue Jays.

In 2014, he will be one of, if not, the top outfielder on the free-agent market. It will make him highly sought after, and highly expensive. That's why a decision needs to be made now by the Blue Birds in regards to how much they value their young stud.

Rasmus is the type of player who, for all intents and purposes, will only push his worth higher before he hits the open market in 2014. That's why it's imperative that general manager Alex Anthopoulos gets him locked up long-term sooner rather than later.

Anthopoulos has stated on more than one occasion over the last year that he isn't concerned about retaining players due to the resources he now has to sign them. He may have the resources, but does he really want to wait while Rasmus' value rises?

At that point it starts to become a matter of if, and not when, they re-sign him.

Rasmus will command a minimum of $14-15-million per year for his next long-term contract if he were to negotiate a long-term deal now. Imagine if he continues to produce at a high-quality rate for the Jays for the rest of this season, and into next. Then how much does he want? His salary per season could rise to the $17-, $18-, or even $19-million range by this time next season.

Does the organization view Rasmus as a near $20-million player at this point in his career? Or do they see him as a $14- to $15-million max player? Right now, I'd venture to guess the latter as their thinking.

Rasmus is only 26 years old, and he hasn't even reached the prime of his career. He still has some growing to do on the field and could still get even better than what he is now. However, does the organization view him as a potential franchise player like they do Jose Bautista?

How much hope do they have that Anthony Gose will get things squared away so that he can become an everyday major-league player? What's the timeline on the development of outfielder prospect Kevin Pillar?

There are so many questions that will impact the Rasmus decision by the Jays that it's nearly impossible to even try and predict what they are thinking.

Things change at a moment's notice in sports, and this situation will be no different. Rasmus and the Jays have two months remaining in the 2013 season to find out exactly what each party views the worth of the player really is.

One thing that we all know for sure won't change is just how crucial these remaining months are for both sides.

Michael Straw is a sportswriter who lives in Buffalo, NY and has been covering baseball, primarily at the Triple-A level, for two years. He began covering the Blue Jays in the fall of 2012, and has been published in multiple Western New York publications.

For Blue Jays and other sports news, follow Michael on Twitter @MikeStrawQCS.

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