It’s probably healthy at this point to remind ourselves that Jose Bautista’s five year contract for $65 million, plus a team option for a sixth year is still, at this point, a rumour.  But it’s a rumour coming from a reliable source and so you’ll have to forgive me if tomorrow morning we wake up to find that the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement and are heading toward arbitration on Friday.

Having said all of that, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs has analyzed the proposed deal and come up with a realistic scenario in which the Bautista deal would work financially for the Blue Jays.

It looks something like this:

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

What bothers me about this set up is that the Blue Jays, if they had stayed course, had the opportunity to pay either $7.6 million or $10.5 million for Bautista’s expected best year of baseball.  If we take Cameron’s example literally, the Blue Jays could have paid at most $10.5 million for $17.5 million value in 2011, traded Bautista or collected the draft picks that a 3.4 WAR season would’ve brought when he signs elsewhere, and then sought a 2.9 WAR player through trade or free agency to replace Bautista in 2012.

Cameron comes close to saying as much:

Essentially, the Jays gave Bautista something like the market rate for this kind of player, but they did it a year before he got to free agency.

There would be several options available that wouldn’t come remotely close to costing the Blue Jays $13 million dollars.  Orlando Hudson, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Juan Uribe are just some of the names of players who had somewhere in the neighbourhood of a 3 WAR season in 2010.

It should also be remembered that the values that Cameron uses are based on the mean of the dollars per win handed out to free agents.  That takes into account every team’s free agent acquisitions.  One of the mandates of the Alex Anthopoulos era in Toronto has been that in order to compete in the AL East, the team has to be better than average in acquiring players, thus the increased scouting budget.  The Jays have also hinted at mimicking the Tampa Bay Rays in their approach to using players whose salaries weren’t determined by free agency, players who are still under six years of service time and are therefore have below market salaries under team control.

In other words, average isn’t good enough for the Toronto Blue Jays if they want to avoid spending like the Red Sox and Yankees while competing in the same division as them. Or as Andrew Stoeten puts it, over at DJF:

Another thing that gets me is that now people are justifying the by saying that even if his production takes a step back he’s still going to be paid in line with his WAR? Sure… but it would seem to me that you precisely don’t want to pay your players what they’re worth. You want what you got this year, guys on $2.4-million contracts giving you nearly $30-million worth of value.

Yes, that’s a ridiculously extreme example, and yes I do believe Rogers will pony up the cash to handle overpaying Bautista, if that’s what ends up happening. The fact that they aim to be loaded by then with young, cheap, controllable players also mitigates it somewhat, but still… the team assumes a hell of a lot of risk here, and it really strikes me as an odd move, given everything else they’ve done so far.

And at best, this comes across to me as an average move, that has just as good of a chance of crashing spectacularly (see Carlos Pena) as it does of working out to the team’s benefit.

Comments (42)

  1. Pooptacular contract. I hope we all wake up tomorrow to find out this fell through.

  2. This is spot-on. I was thinking along the same lines, but would have never been able to articulate it as well as your last paragraph here does.

  3. Beeston indicated that a payroll of $140MM is where the Jays could be headed, if all goes as planned. Not quite the Red Sox, and not nearly the Yankees, but certainly not the Rays, either. I fail to see how paying market value for a player in a relatively poor scenario is crippling to the team.

  4. “…the Blue Jays could have paid at most $10.5 million for $17.5 million value in 2011, traded Bautista or collected the draft picks that a 3.4 WAR season would’ve brought when he signs elsewhere, and then sought a 2.9 WAR player through trade or free agency to replace Bautista in 2012.”

    I’m sure that would go over well with the public.

  5. IF Bautista does repeat I don’t want to overpay to keep him given his age..

    But the payroll is at such a low point we got to spend on it something..

    I say getty up! I love this deal! In order for the Jays to catch Boston and New York they have to take some risks, and I like this one… I like it a lot more than if JB hits 40 dings next year and they give him 140/7…

    If Bautista goes back to being a shit head, it doesn’t really matter that much… Its 13 mill for a team with dick all payroll… Unless we’re adding Pujols next season, we are gonna be well below the appropriate 90 mill for the next 3 years.. So who gives a fuck… We are keeping a good player… Lets be happy, stop being such Douche! I do like your blog though…

  6. kouzmanoff had a war of 1, what are you talking about

  7. This is a well done post that displays the side of the no extension argument well, though your 3 WAR free agent options aren’t exactly awe inspiring (they’re all about the same level player as Edwin Encarnacion, except Kouzmanoff whose WAR last year was inflated by an unsustainable UZR).

    Ultimately, I think what Parkes is suggesting is very safe, and sometimes it takes some risk in order to make a good team. I believe that the same principle to paying overslot and acquiring high upside players applies here.

    One thing I don’t understand from a lot of the comments is all this worry about Bautista’s age. The guy will only be 34 when the alleged contract ends. That is barely past the prime of a hitter. Why are we so certain of this constant decline? At the same time, we’re advocating a 10 year contract for Pujols which would have the Jays paying 30 million dollars to a 41 year old (if he’s not even older than that). I think we need to apply some consistency when evaluating decline and contract length, especially when our only indication of a Bautista decline is a Carlos Pena comparison.

  8. I hate to be the touchy-feely guy over here, Dustin, but don’t you think there’s at least some value in showing this young crop of players that performance as a Blue Jays player will be rewarded by the Blue Jays?

    They’re not giving Bautista a bad deal; they’re giving an average deal, like you said. I would wager on equal chances that Bautista will crash and burn vs. tear it up; but really, I expect the most likely scenario is that he lives up to the expectations of a $13 million/year contract, and little if anything more.

    Assuming Bautista doesn’t win back-to-back MVPs, the Blue Jays are clearly not “winning” this deal; but what they are doing is showing this group of unproven young players that they’re willing to spend money on the players on this team right now.

    The Blue Jays are a franchise that hasn’t sniffed success in nearly two decades. If these players are expected to play for the name on the front of the jersey as much as the one on the back, they need reasons. If their team is consistently just taking players to arbitration, giving them one-year deals to see if they sink or float, trading late if they do well, picking up picks, et cetera, ad infinitum, then it potentially sets up a situation where everyone is just looking to get picked up by a “real” ballclub once they’ve proven themselves.

    Not to mention the need for this club to maintain its enormously improved casual fan sentiment. The Jays are the great white hope in Toronto right now. Attendance will improve next year—with modest success, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect an extra 800,000 fans over 2010. Revenues will increase substantially. If Bautista were to have another big season, were suddenly worth $20 million on the free agent market, and signed somewhere else, that would be terrible for baseball business in this city. Face of the franchise, gone again.

    In Toronto, right now, these things matter. This is a team on the cusp of something; they need to be careful to manage fan expectations.

    I realize all of the above is a fairly subjective argument; but really, the contract’s been shown to be objectively average. So if you’re AA, why not make this average deal that will improve casual fan sentiment, improve attendance, and give Bautista the opportunity to try to lead this offense into the future?

    I know this much: I wouldn’t bet against Bautista right now.

  9. I would totally agree with everything you said, and realistically I guess I do, except that I’ve built up an unhealthy amount of trust in everything AA has done up until this point and all of the perfectly valid reasons to dislike this deal are being pushed to the wayside by the notion that he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t have a lot of very good reasons to believe it’s the best move. It feels strange to have that kind of confidence in the front office, but to me it suggests that they have higher expectations for his future performance than we might have expected. Which, given AA’s trademark thoroughness and army of talent evaluators, seems like a perfectly legitimate possibility.

  10. @Parkes I see it the other way. An average move with the potential to be a huge bargain if Bautista has raised his level of production.

  11. At first I was like “nooooo!” and then I was like “whatever, let’s just see some baseball.” I’m over playing GM. I want to see a twin killing, ya heard?

  12. Aaron Adams : “If Bautista were to have another big season, were suddenly worth $20 million on the free agent market, and signed somewhere else, that would be terrible for baseball business in this city. Face of the franchise, gone again.”

    Hasn’t been said better.

  13. Do you guys wanna keep talkin’ about the contract or do you wanna see me hit some dingers????

  14. The norm with these type of long term contracts has the annual pay increase each year (ex: $10 in 2011, $12 in 2012, $14 in 2014).

    Any chance that Jose’s deal is front loaded by giving him an upfront signing bonus of $5M and his first 2 years paying him $15-$17M and his last 2 years paying out $10M?

    Would this type of payout of the contract make it easier to swallow if you assume his most productive years will be his first 2 yrs of the contract thus paying him such?

  15. WAR WAR WAR WAR WAR WAR

    blah fucking blah

    let’s dispense with the intangables of baseball and focus all our thoughts on the stats, like the Sabermetric fanboys we are!

    Aaron Adams got it right. It’s not the worst contract imaginable.

  16. I don’t think this cripples the team’s payroll, but I would have like to have seen them wait until the offseason for it. See how 2011 plays out first before diving in.

  17. But WAMCO, that’s the point – if 2011 plays out well and Bautista has another big year, then he’d probably be able to find something in the neighbourhood of $100 million. The whole point of this deal for the Jays is that if he continues to play at a very high level, then they’ll be getting a bargain. That seems to be somewhat overlooked because of the potential downside, but isn’t that the type of risk AA always says is necessary to compete in the AL East?

  18. yes, but the upside isn’t spectacular in my opinion. At least, not enough to be worth the risk

  19. The upside isn’t spectacular? The upside is 54 home runs and an OPS of 1.000! You can argue that’s not likely to happen again, but it can’t be out of the picture, right? I mean, he just did it.

    Whether it’s worth the risk or not, well, that’s the whole debate, isn’t it?

  20. I think you have made a lot stronger arguments in the past Parkes for why contracts are so poor. Don’t get me wrong my initial reaction was holy fuck too, but your focusing way too much on what you think he will theoretically do next season. You have said twice in both posts that 2011 could be his best season, but you have no rational way have deducing it. Maybe it will be his strongest season, but if thats the case then that means he put two back to back 7+ WAR seasons together, and then all of a sudden the Jays are looking at a scenario where they are paying 20M for a player on the free market.

    And I get the comparisons to Pena because of the career arc graph, but at the end of the day they are two completely separate players. Pena battled through injuries following his career year at 29, and although he didn’t miss an exorbitant amount of games, many analysts attribute that to way he struggled following his breakout year. Now there is no way to say that injuries couldn’t plague Joey Bats, but I will also in the same breath say that its safe to say Bats is a far more athletic player than Pena is, and thus I would speculate that he is less likely to deteriorate as quickly. At the end of the day he is an outstanding athlete and he is only 30, I don’t think the same could be said about Pena at the same age.

    Final thought – even if Bautista were to fall back to the type of season that Hill has posted twice in his career, that still makes him a 5 WAR player, not a 3. Bautista’s defence should equate him to roughly the same equivalent WAR as Hill’s.

  21. Exactly. If the money here values Bautista as a +3.5 win player next year with a typical decline going forward, then to me that indicates that the Jays view him as much more than that.

    Think about it: based on Cameron’s analysis at Fangraphs, if that’s how the Jays really see Bautista, then I can’t imagine that they would ever offer this contract. The only logical explanation is that thy have good reason to believe he’ll be better than that, or at least that there’s a good chance of that happening.

  22. Interesting analysis, Dustin. Like many others, I feel like AA is hedging bets that signing JB long term now will be cheaper (and shorter) than waiting until the season is done. Yes, it’s a risky move, with the potential to be a huge waste of money…. if he slips back to a 13HR player. (Not likely this season, IMHO)

    But I think what Aaron mentioned is a really valid (if emotional) rational behind ponying up the cash. The message behind not believing in Jose could be devastating to the fans and the younger players.

  23. One smart thing they could do is pay some money up front or front load the annual salary. So as his skills decline and as prospects start getting into arb he less of a burden. Basically the opposite structure of the wells deal.

  24. If the Jays/Rogers are true to their word, and there is money to be spent, whats wrong with spending it on Jose? Not EVERYONE on the teams needs to be cheap and or on a team friendly contract.

    This contract is fair. With all the young talent coming there won’t be a need to over spend on free agents. Why not lock up the reigning HR champ, and a man everyone on the team and in the city seems to like? He produces even 80% and we’re laughing.

    Go Jays!

  25. @Jose

    DINGERS! DINGERS!

    @ Parkes

    I’ve found a lot of the analysis – going back to when the first arb date was postponed – to be cherry picked examples. You use WAR to compare Pena and Bautista but completely ignore the defensive value implicit in the metric. JBau isn’t a 1B (yet), so his WAR isn’t as likely to fall off like Pena’s.

    You also use O-Dog, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Uribe as comparatives for 3 WAR players. Really, you want to roll year to year trying to pick up vets with something left in order to plug holes?

    At least an extension gives the Jays some stability. I don’t see why anyone would want a constantly fluctuating roster, which seems to be the only real counter-option you’re proposing. What do you do if he has another good to great year and prices himself out of the Jays range? Sign Johnny Damon and move Lunchbox to right? Hope on a rookie, reclamation project or rule 5 pick?

    The Jays AREN’T the Rays. They have vastly more resources, and preaching a model identical to theirs is folly.

  26. JBau isn’t a 1B (yet), so his WAR isn’t as likely to fall off like Pena’s.

    I do not understand this argument. If a player is a bad defender at any position his WAR suffers. Bautista gets a boost from playing tougher positions but if he’s bad it doesn’t get a free pass.

  27. I’m confused by one thing from the original Deportes report:

    “The agreement, which would include financial support for Bautista’s charitable activities in Toronto and the Dominican Republic, is missing some details including the player passing a physical.”

    So the Blue Jays are agreeing to something like 65M/5 that *includes* charitable donations on Bautista’s behalf. I suppose for the sake of analyzing total “financial commitment” from a team this sort of nuance doesn’t matter. But if the 65M includes BJ monies going to JB’s charity work rather than JB’s own money, the yearly salary would be way down, but JB’s take-home would be way up. OR: Perhaps I’ve spent way too long in grad school sweating over the implications of every word of every sentence I ever read.

  28. Lots of great questions/comments here. Let’s have a chat about the Bautista signing at 3:00 PM EST today.

  29. The contract as we’re all reading it right now as $65M over 5yrs just seems way to simple of a structure for an AA type of contract. AA is known for structuring more complex deals (Lind,Hil). So when dooling out this type of cash for basically one spectacular year, over 5 year term, i would suspect AA has structured it in such a way that it looks more favourable for the Jays then simply $13M per year for next 5 years.

  30. Tougher to make those deals when only buying out the final arbitration year. Why would a free agent sign a deal like that when they have guaranteed money on the table?

  31. Maybe he accepts it cause Jays willing to gaurantee a 5th year instead of 4yr deal.

  32. I think Aaron might be on to something. Weren’t we wondering why, after a winter of no negotiations, all of a sudden this long-term contract is on the table? Maybe as players reported and AA touched base with them, he discovered that the felt that Bautista needed to be rewarded. Hill, LInd and Romero all were after one great season. Could that be what’s driving this?

  33. The path to mediocrity is paved with pay checks for player’s past achievements.

  34. @Drew

    “The path to mediocrity is paved with pay checks for player’s past achievements.”

    Love it. You’re the Socrates of baseball philosophy.

  35. Getting Blanked is now known as Getting Profound.

  36. How about Getting Profoundly Blanked?

  37. You mean Parkes’ Saturday Night? zing!

  38. Isn’t this Bautista deal all about projecting his future achievements though? He was mediocre at best for like, his entire career until last year. It’s not like they’re overpaying a ‘proven veteran’ for past performance.

  39. @ Drew

    The positional adjustment in WAR penalizes 1B’s more than any other position, no? So an average defender at first is less valuable than an average defender at third or in right.

    My point being that Bautista has more positional value than Pena, so a dropoff in his batting statistics won’t impact his WAR as severely. Is my logic off?

  40. @Drew: I like your insights about 95% of the time, but isn’t this [alleged] contract precisely NOT due to J-Bau’s past achievements (or lack thereof)? Isn’t it mostly because they think his one best season is a forecaster of things to come, and that he wasn’t just the beneficiary of all things falling into place in 2010? Besides, unless you’re nuts, you’re always using the cumulative categories of upside / refinement of existing tools, past performance, and projected decline to value a contract.

    If they were paying only for cumulative past performance, I think you’d see something more in line with an average of the Jays’ arb figure. They’re betting on the increased playing time and changes he made in 2010 resulting in more years like 2010.

    I, too, am baffled at why they’d be guaranteeing 5 years or why they’d offer $13MM+ per, after dropping a team arb figure just a shade above half that. But I’m willing to wait and see what the final results are. I can’t imagine that when figures come out like this, that it’s not the player’s side putting it out there to place his offer in the realm of acceptability.

  41. @Jim – My comment was directed to MK’s comment specifically. I forgot the whole @ing part..

    @Ian – I see your logic but I don’t believe putting a bad defender in a more important spot makes him inherently more valuable than a mediocre defender in a less vital spot.

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