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.

Comments (30)

  1. “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.”

    Parkes, if Bautista had a successful 2011, he would have gotten upwards of 6 years and 90M. Maybe more, like Jayson Werth.

    If the Jays believe in Bautista going forward, this was undoubtedly the time to lock him up.

  2. Also, the Jays can still be a team that fins sustained success through investing in young players with elite potential. But that doesn’t mean they also can’t pay above-average (and potentially great) players like Bautista as well. The goal in Toronto should be an organization that conducts itself much like the Red Sox, not the Rays.

    Which reminds me….this contract compares favorably to the JD Drew contract (5 years/70M) that the Sox gave him three years ago.

  3. I like that they’re willing to spend but they shouldn’t be in the business of *having* to spend and that’s what this one looks like. I think being able to wait until after 2011 is worth the extra amount he’d cost. And if it’s too much, then let him go and be happy to get his 1st and 2nd best seasons, as Parkes said.

  4. If they waited until after 2011, they would have had to pay him at a higher rate into his age 37 season. That could have been the potential albatross, not this.

  5. Boston gave that to Drew as a FA and he had a track record. I’m not sure why it’s such a given that Bautista is worth 13m/yr. Surely GMs aren’t using WAR to valuate contracts. I would’ve thought Jose’s loyalty and him liking it in TO would’ve put the price at around 10m/yr.

    I don’t want to make it sound like this is awful but I thought AA could’ve done better based on his record so far.

  6. Should’ve been more clear, by successful, I mean 4 WAR. If a team is willing to pay Bautista more than $54 million over four years after a season like that, let them. I don’t see how this contract could possibly work out well for the Jays.

  7. Why do I get the feeling that we’ll be talking about this deal in 2014 as though it’s a lesser version of the Vernon Wells’ deal.

    It’s a great deal if Bautista can play at a high level; I’m just not confident in that yet.

  8. Well, that is way too much.

    But look on the bright side, it at least shows Rogers is committed to spending money on this team, at least for keeping the players on the team.

  9. “Boston gave that to Drew as a FA and he had a track record.”
    Yes, a track record for being injury-prone and without the potential of such a high ceiling like Bautista.

    ” I’m not sure why it’s such a given that Bautista is worth 13m/yr. Surely GMs aren’t using WAR to valuate contracts. I would’ve thought Jose’s loyalty and him liking it in TO would’ve put the price at around 10m/yr.”
    It’s not a given. But when you are dealing with a guy with his ceiling, it’s fair to take on a bit of risk. My guess, though, is that the Jays valued him as a 3.5-4.0 win player for the duration of this contract and that’s why they made it.

  10. Aww…everybody is so quaint, getting all up in arms over 5/65. That would make Bautista something like the 8th highest AAV guy on the Yankees (and just above a bunch of others) and the 5th highest on the Sox (but more or less tied with a few other guys).

    I’m not saying I’m in love with this potential contract, but I’m not in love with the small-market chicken little reaction to it either. If he sucks in 2011, then get back to me.

  11. @Adam

    Agreed. If Rogers is actually committed to a $140-150M payroll in the future as they say they are, then even if Bautista bombs, this will have no effect on the franchise going forward.

  12. What doesn’t make sense to me is that the Jays thought Bautista should be paid about 7.5 million next year… How do they go from that to 5/65?

    Even Bautista’s camp thought his value would only be about 10 million next year… does either side expect that his numbers will IMPROVE next year?

    Just seems like way to much for a guy that will AT BEST stay the same, but is far more likely to recede.

  13. @NOS

    “2011 – +3.4 WAR, $5 million per win, $17.5 million value
    2012 – +2.9 WAR, $5.25M $/win, $15.23 million value
    2013 – +2.4 WAR, $5.51M $/win, $13.23 million value
    2014 – +1.9 WAR, $5.69M $/win, $11.00 million value
    2015 – +1.4 WAR, $6.08 $/win, $8.51 million value

    Total: +12 WAR, $64.96 million value

    That’s the standard aging curve and an assumed inflation rate of 5% per year. In order to live up to the contract, 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 was last year. McGehee hit .285/.337/.464 while playing below average defense at third base. Do you think Bautista is capable of that next year? (If he moves to the outfield, he’d need to be somewhat above average defensively out there or hit a little bit better than this, but you get the idea.)”

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/jose-bautista-cashes-in/

    This also contains Parkes’ argument against the deal, as well.

  14. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s part of Dave Cameron’s take over at Fangraphs:

    “Let’s start with what the Jays are not paying for – this deal does not pay for the expectation that Bautista will hit like he did in 2010 again. He was a +7 win player last year, and if they were paying for that kind of performance going forward, they would have had to add another $100 million to get a deal done. At $65 million over five years, we essentially come up with the following expectation:

    2011 – +3.4 WAR, $5 million per win, $17.5 million value
    2012 – +2.9 WAR, $5.25M $/win, $15.23 million value
    2013 – +2.4 WAR, $5.51M $/win, $13.23 million value
    2014 – +1.9 WAR, $5.69M $/win, $11.00 million value
    2015 – +1.4 WAR, $6.08M $/win, $8.51 million value

    Total: +12 WAR, $64.96 million value”

    Sounds more than reasonable to me. The idea that anybody can’t “see how this contract could possibly work out well for the Jays” baffles me. It MAY not work out well, but it’s pretty obvious how it COULD.

    • The thing is. The Blue Jays could’ve ended up paying $7.6 million or $10.5 million for that $17.5 million value in 2011, then gotten the picks or made a trade, and found a 3 WAR player that won’t cost the team $13 million.

  15. I agree with Parkes. I don’t see how this move is really beneficial for the team. Seems like Bautsita wins this one.

  16. Travis,
    I wouldn’t say it would turn out like a lesser version of the Wells deal, because what made the Wells deal so bad was just how much money was tied up in it. This is about half of that. I could very easily see it being like the Rios deal though, and most Blue Jays fans were happy to have that contract out when the White Sox claimed him.

    This contract came down to leverage. If Jose believed he was for real and is going to have a similar season, and the Blue Jays believed he was for real and is going to have a similar season, then Jose had leverage. Because if the Blue Jays believed they were going to have to pay more than this after the season, or lose him, then they really had no choice.

    Let’s face it, Jose was never going to accept a team friendly three year deal, especially with team options on top of it.

  17. That’s true, and if Bautista performs in a way closely matching the expected decline over the course of the contract, then they’d be better off I guess. Certainly they’d have more money available.

    I guess where we disagree is that I am convinced that Bautista will perform better than Cameron’s expectations, and decline less rapidly, and you’re still wondering whether his 2010 was a fluke. I’m happy they signed him, and I think it’ll work out well, but I guess we’ll see.

  18. The whole thing AA has been preaching about upside comes into this. It’s the same type of thing as the Wallace for Gose deal. Who at this point has bigger upside than Bautista? You cannot have a team completely made up of 3 WAR players and make the playoffs. You have to take some risks on things that might not turn out. This risk was not completely unnecessary, if you want to keep Bautista, and at a reasonable price.

  19. In the end, it all really comes down to your belief in Bautista and how “real” his 2010 really was.

    Now, I don’t like trusting management when evaluating deals (because that’s not being objective, that’s having faith), but the Jays seem to think that his potential to be a great player is legitimate, and they would obviously know better than anyone else.

    Yes, there is risk here, but this could also turn into an incredible bargain if Bautista remains a great hitter. Personally, while Parkes’ argument makes a hell of a lot of sense too, I think it’s worth it to keep him in the fold long-term.

  20. Parkes arguments make sense until the part where he says to trade Bautista or let him leave after this season, and then sign a 3 WAR player for less than 13 million.

    First of all, signing a 3 WAR player for less than 13 M is difficult to do. Young 3 WAR players don’t often hit free agency, because that’s exactly who teams like to lock up for reasonable prices (think Aaron Hill). Old 3 WAR players are in decline, and usually want more than 13 M because of what they had done in the past. So there’s that.

    Secondly, why not bring back Bautista? You’re acting like his decline is all but certain, based just on Carlos Pena, which is a really small sample size. If he’s a 5 WAR player this year (which I wouldn’t call decline, I’d call coming back to earth), you are looking at an 100M contract, maybe a bit more, which is exactly what this team will give to somebody at some point if they want to establish themselves as contenders. As my point above states, you need some above average players to be a solid playoff team, and since they don’t grow on trees, that includes resigning or extending what you have.

  21. I am officially WAR’d out. People are using it as a be-all FACT now, which is exactly what stat people hate about the counting stats crowd. It’s especially silly to use it to value contracts.

  22. Bad deal. I would have preferred he walked after 2011.
    Bean’s the next Boras.

  23. the fallacy in parkes argument is that he assumes the jays will keep him for the length of the contract. the jays dumped rios and wells at higher salary long before their contracts were due. if jose has 2 good years the jays will probably dump him then, so the remaining 3 years are really moot. all he has to do is play well for 2 years and the jays are laughing.

  24. Listen….if all we had to do was operate a team the way we wanted then we would have JB on a team friendly contract. But there are two sides to everything. Contracts are negotiated and players get payed under value when they are young and overvalued when they are old. If you want a player, you have to look at the alternatives and decide what you would rather have and then once you decided that you have to determine the cost you willing to live with that at.

    Is this contract too much? strictly from Blue Jays pov, yes. Is still good for the team? yes I believe so.

    As many previous posters pointed out, who else are you gonna get…who is the concrete options for this team in JB’s place for 2011, 2012 at least?

    You have to deal with the reality of the team not the hypothetical and the reality is that JB is their best bet right now.

  25. Hoopstarr, that’s exactly what WAR was designed to be used for. To give us an idea of the totality of a player’s worth.

  26. I dont have an issue with an AAV of $13 million… I do, however, very much dislike the 5 years guaranteed (if it ends up that way when the details are confirmed).

    That being said, complaining about it as though it places any kind of restraint on the team going forward just makes me think those people are mistakingly viewing the Toronto Blue Jays as a cash-strapped small market team.

    Parkes – you tend to take every opportunity to point out that Toronto is far from a small market and the team is far from cash-strapped anytime the opposite is suggested, so why would you take such issue with the Jays stepping up and taking a calculated risk with a moderate dollar amount? I get the concern, especially in the term… but right or wrong, when you make the point that they could have retained him for this year at $7.6-$10.5 and got upwards of $17mil in value and let him walk if he didn’t like the extension you suggested just looks very much like a small market mentality to me.

    I am definitely not 100% happy with the deal as its been reported, but the overall committment should not be invoking the VW comparisons that I have seen from others in terms of the “albatross-ness” of it.

  27. The outlook for this team is young, cheap, controllable players for the next while. Having one large contract is negligible.

  28. As I mentioned in the other comments section, we’re going to have a 3:00 PM EST chat to talk about the Bautista contract. Join us then.

  29. Wow alot of fortune tellers here… The jays have tons of scouts and good coaches who think very highly of Jose’s hitting abilities. AA would not give him that money if he didn’t think he could produce.

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