Say whatever you’d like about Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays, but there is positively no denying that they are believers in Jose Bautista and his future success as a big league slugger.  Apparently.

ESPN’s Enrique Rojas is reporting that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista are close to agreeing to a five-year contract extension worth close to $65 million.  Ken Rosenthal has since tweeted that a club option could turn the deal into a six year contract worth $78 million.  Assuming that the first five years are guaranteed, that works out to $13 million annually.

Whenever long term deals are discussed, you have to think in terms of getting better value in the first half of the deal and suffering through lesser value in the second half.  Paying Bautista $13 million annually for five years is expecting an average of between 3.5 and 4 WAR over the length of the guaranteed years, or 18-20 total WAR.

At the very worst, the Blue Jays would’ve ended up paying $10.5 million next season which would theoretically be for the best season of Bautista’s next five years.  Let’s say that Bautista has a successful 2011.  The team would’ve been able to offer $54.5 million over four years, with an option for a fifth to Bautista, which would’ve been much more than what the Detroit Tigers signed Victor Martinez for this offseason, and possibly more than Dan Uggla’s extension with the Atlanta Braves if the Jays win the arbitration hearing.

However, the main difference is that those examples all have more than one successful season under their belts.  Jose Bautista has had one season of a seven year career that’s been above two wins above replacement.

If this rumoured deal becomes reality, this is the scariest image that the Blue Jays could possibly imagine:

As I’ve mentioned previously, if there’s a single player whose career arc can compare to Jose Bautista’s, it’s Carlos Pena’s.  Both players were disappointing prospects who came out of nowhere to have career years at the age of 29.  Pena has since gone on to have three seasons of declining production culminating in last season’s depressing accomplishment of having a batting average below .200, while collecting more than 150 strikeouts.

Like Bautista, Pena was entering his final year of arbitration after his career year.  The Rays signed him to a three year deal that paid $24.125 million, divvied up as such: $6 million in 2008, $8 million in 2009 and $10.125 million in 2010.  Over the course of the contract, Pena accumulated 7.8 WAR, which according to the dollar value of WAR worked out by FanGraphs, could be seen as a success.  But in terms of a team that consistently takes advantage of the market inefficiency bargains that pre-arbitration players offer, it becomes less of a winner.

I thought that the Blue Jays were planning on building a team that finds sustained success through investing in young players with elite potential, not paying players for their past peak performances.