I’ve written a lot about Jose Bautista over the last six weeks. His start to the 2011 season has been incredible. We’re barely half way through the month of May, and he already has a 3.9 WAR season on his hands. Last season, after 162 games, Vernon Wells ranked second on the Toronto Blue Jays, behind Bautista, with a 4.0 WAR.

Only 19 entire teams in the league have a higher total WAR than Bautista does, and if you take away his contribution from the Blue Jays, it becomes 18.

Right now, 34% of his plate appearances have ended in either a walk or a home run. Of the 193 qualified batters in the Major Leagues, Bautista would rank 80th in on base percentage based only on his walks and home runs. That’s not counting the 29 hits he’s gotten that haven’t gone for home runs, which make his OBP of .520, 50 points higher than the next closest player, Joey Votto.

Perhaps most impressive to me is that right now, with two strikes, Bautista has an OPS of 1.122, and even in the 26 plate appearances in which a pitcher has gotten ahead in the count 0-2, he still has an OPS of 1.203. It’s utter and pure dominance.

The Albert Pujols comparisons are coming to an end and the name of Barry Bonds is beginning to be mentioned.

Yesterday afternoon, Bautista hit three home runs in one game for the first time in his career. He did so against two different pitchers. The first dinger came off of Brian Duensing in the third inning on the first four seam fastball that he saw. The second came against Kevin Slowey in the very next inning on a slider inside. And the third came again off of Slowey, this time on another four seam fastball that hung in the zone.

When Bautista and the Blue Jays signed a five year extension this offseason I was very critical of the agreement. The team had just gotten out from under the Vernon Wells shackles and seemingly found a new restraint to tie themselves to only a couple of months later. I wasn’t alone. In a poll taken by MLB Trade Rumors, 72.42% of people believed the contract to be too much.

I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong. I just don’t think I’m wrong yet in not liking the contract. I never imagined that Bautista would play the way that he has so far, but what’s constantly being forgotten by people claiming that the contract was a work of genius by Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays is that the team still had Bautista locked up for 2011 as they prepared to go to arbitration with him.

This is an important factor being overlooked, and I don’t think you can properly judge the 5 year, $65 million contract until after next season. It’s all well and good to look at his 4 WAR already this year and assume that he only needs eight more wins above replacement over the next 4 3/4 years to make the contract worthwhile, but that’s negating to recognize the value that the team could’ve had without committing themselves to the back end of the contract.

The future looks great for the Blue Jays and Bautista right now, but let’s hold off on the crucifixions of those who were critical of the contract until a little bit longer than 1/30 of the way through the deal. Then you guys can totally have at it.

And The Rest:

Staying with Toronto, Jayson Nix was activated from the Disabled List, meaning that the Blue Jays had to send David Cooper back down to Triple A Las Vegas. During his first brief stint in the Major Leagues, Cooper had a miserable .486 OPS and a weighted on base average of .229 in 41 plate appearances.

If you missed the Jorge Posada melodrama from the weekend, you should probably feel lucky, but if you insist on catching up on the details, you can probably do a lot worse than seeing what River Avenue Blues has to say.

At least, it’s probably better than reading this drivel.

Come on Gregg Zaun, you know better. It’s like you just signed your name on an opinion, crumpled it up and threw it at the reporter.

Despite his horrendous struggles of late, the Seattle Mariners will stick with Brandon League as the team’s closer. This would be far more shocking if the team had another serious candidate.

In a similar vein, Ozzie Guillen and the Chicago White Sox are standing behind Juan Pierre despite his being Juan Pierre.

Tim Lincecum: Best pitcher in the league or definitely the best pitcher in the league?

Charlie Hustle would like a chance to manage again in the Majors. Yeah, that’ll happen.

Here are 20 things that no one ever should own. Except maybe Turtle.

Tony LaRussa is feeling better, but will still miss some time due to shingles. I don’t understand what the problem is though. Just hire some reliable roofers. Right, no such thing.

I may have just made light of a serious illness, but at least I didn’t make a promotion out of it.

Like Mr. Big, the band not the candy bar, Matt Murton is huge in Japan.

Stating the obvious must be a regional pastime in parts of Minnesota.

Some Mets fans do not like a baseball strategy set around avoiding outs.

Bobby Bonilla’s payday is just beginning.

Clint Hurdle sets out to make his gut the new market inefficiency, as you probably wish that jokes about the new market inefficiency became the new market inefficiency.

Nick Roman has a modest proposal for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Comments (34)

  1. Are you trying to say that you’d be just as happy if we’d done salary arbitration with Bautista? I for one am overjoyed that I can enjoy every hit, every homerun, every article written about him without having to wonder whether he was pricing himself off the Jays. Jose has been a class act, plays hard every play of every game and is a leader in the locker room. I know you laugh at any comment that doesn’t have a slash line, but that doesn’t count for nothing; even after his production tails off, we can count on him to be a solid positive presence in our dugout for 5 years. I can think of worse things.

  2. Dear Dustin

    You keep saying that this deal may not end up being worth it when all is said and done and on that you are certainly correct but there are few contracts that you can’t say that about.

    As for you continuing sugggestions that Blue Jays could have somehow saved money is a little silly. Sure they could have taken the arb money and saved money this year but after even a modest year by bautista they would have paid more money over the contract. Not to mention having to compete against other teams in a free agent situation next year. In your scenario, they would have paid more or lost him. Not as good as paying “maybe” a little too much over 5 years, the scenario we have now.

  3. Parkes,

    Not liking the Bautista contract during the off season is completely defensable, but to claim that it’s still up in the air is disengenuous. If you don’t think that 29 other teams would take that contract off their hands right now, you’re crazy. And THAT is the definition of value.

    The way you’re looking at it, you’re simply trying to maximize value for dollars spent. So in your world, you let him play is arbitration year (this year) and then go from there. If we play out this scenario, Bautista then signs with the Yankees for 6 years and $150M and the Jays are back in rebuilding mode indefinitely. Is there less risk in that scenario? Sure. But we’re not investing in the stock market. They’re trying to win a World Series. So they assesed the risks, decided it was worth it, and they won huge.

    The thing is, at some point, you have to sign good players to long term contracts. There is always a risk that the player underperforms the contract. Hell, there’s still a risk that Bautista underperforms this contract if he gets hurt or completely forgets how to hit again. But please stop trying to say that this contract value is still up in the air because it’s simply not true.

  4. I like what Ray had to say. This situation is somewhat similar to that situation with a girl you’ve been dating for a while who’s out of your league and who you’re always paranoid about cheating on you until you stole her phone out of her purse and read all her text messages, discovering that she calls you “My dream guy” and “Hammer-Lord” to all her friends and making you realize you’ve been worrying for nothing.

  5. As mentioned by many commenters, you can absolutely judge the contract extension at this point because it has created surplus value. I can’t imagine anyone would argue that their would be a considerable trade market for Bautista right now (every team in the league) and the Jays could trade Bautista now for more then they would have got for him prior to the contract being signed.

    Even if you’re still holding on to the fact that Bautista could turn in to a pumpkin, the deal in hindsight was good because Bautista is locked in at a rate significantly lower than his market value. Trading him right now (even though his extension hasn’t kicked in) would provide a greater gain then if the extension didn’t exist, therefore this net gain shows the extension in hindsight was good.

  6. Funny how you say we can’t judge the contract now after 1.5 months.. which, realistically is very fair and I agree with.

    Yet you went on and on about how this was a bad deal, before the season even started..

    So which is it? are we going to analyze it throughout the life of the deal or wait a few years and then anyalyze it?

    If you can’t be right, at least be consistent.

  7. AA has saved the franchise a large amount of money by signing him prior to the season beginning. It is likely that Bautista would have received a $20 million/5 year contract.

    If the jays did decide to sign him to this amount, then the jays would not have any money to extend, Escobar or Morrow.

    The jays have signed many bad contracts over the past few years. ( BJ Ryan, Alex Rios & Vernon Wells). The law of averages would indicate that at least 1 of these contracts will work out.

    The jays can build a playoff team around Bautista & Lind for 2012 & 2013.

    I hoepe AA does not make the same mistake as they did with halladay when they failed to build a team for him to get into the playoffs.

  8. Wow, Parkes is getting killed, huh? Well, I’m going to agree with him and add this about Bautista’s contract: Regardless of what happens in the deal, the timing and length of the deal fly in the face of Anthopoulos’ professed process when running this team.

    It may turn out to be a fantastic deal and that’s great, but he’s right, you can’t judge it based on a month and a half out of five years, and even then, the timing of it was and always will be questionable.

  9. Travis.

    How does that make any sense?

    You cant base anything off the first month and a half of a 5 year deal… so basing it off before the deal even kicked in, perfectly acceptable?

  10. Frankly, it’s not a risk I could’ve taken. And as I write in the post, it’s looking really, really good for the Jays right now, but it’s still premature to judge.

    Counter point from Dave Cameron in FanGraphs who thinks Bautista would’ve gotten Texeira money after this season: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/jose-bautista-massive-bargain/

  11. You can form an opinion when a 5 year deal is signed. You can’t say that opinion is right or wrong 1/30th of the way through the deal.

  12. Except you pretty much can when the guy is on pace for the greatest offensive season in baseball history through 1/4 of a season and has established himself as one of, if not the best, hitters in the entire season. Barring some kind of terrible injury, this contract has the potential to be a huge steal for the Jays. He’s already earned nearly $18M of it.

    Addressing the points in the article, though, why would the Jays want to go to arbitration with a guy that they think is for real? If they did that and Bautista went on to hit 40-50 HR again (as it appears he’s going to do), he either would have been gone in free agency or he would have cost the team at least 150+M over 6 years. Neither of those options would have be optimal.

    They got him locked up while they still had the chance and they should be commended for it. The fact that it’s one more year than you wanted is hardly something to complain about.

  13. @dc: I’m not saying that, I’m saying that looking at things objectively in the offseason, I personally do not agree with the deal. I’m saying that I’m not going to change my opinion of the deal after 1/20th of it has gone by; that would be crazy.

    And again, I’ll never agree with the timing of the deal; if you didn’t agree with it at the time it was done, changing your opinion when the deal looks good is actually quite hypocritical. If you didn’t agree with the timing, you didn’t agree with the timing.

    If he continues this and the deal ends up looking awesome, then fantastic! I’m not rooting for it to fail just so I can be right. I’m a Jays’ fan as much as anyone else and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as entertaining as this. I’m a huge Bautista fan and I want nothing more than for the deal to work out.

  14. “Regardless of what happens in the deal, the timing and length of the deal fly in the face of Anthopoulos’ professed process when running this team.”

    You can’t get a player of Bautista’s quality without putting up some cash. It would be great if Rogers could do more of these kinds of contracts…they can certainly afford it. And this team badly needs another elite player behind Bautista.

  15. Oh, and my original post should say “one of the best hitters in the entire league.” His ZiPS ROS projection is better than any other hitter right now…he’s fully established himself as an elite player.

  16. what’s “constantly being forgotten” is that not liking the contract is equivalent to having jose leaving as a free agent. you can’t separate the two. the fact is by signing jose you limited yourself to just 1 downside, losing money on the 65 mil deal. Using Parkes idea of waiting, you now have 2 downsides. One, you have to pay him 7/140 to fend off whatever psycho gm wants to pay him. Or two, you let him go as a free agent and take the two measly picks. He ends up with the yanks or sox and you now have to face him 18 times a year. Which one do you prefer.

  17. I agree with Parkes here despite disagreeing on signing the deal to begin with (I was in favour of the deal). It is just way too early to judge the contract. You would’ve got Bautista’s 3.9 WAR this year with or without the long-term deal.

    The argument other posters are making is that Bautista’s mammoth production has given us a huge discount on him long-term (Note: only for the 4 following years, not this year). However, it is way too early to appropriately make this claim.

    To properly evaluate the contract you need to look at what would’ve occurred in the next best alternative situation, i.e., getting the arbitration discount and resigning him for X years at the market rate. I would wait until we see what Pujols and Fielder get this off-season before we begin to throw this in Parkes’ face.

  18. I don’t understand this concept “it’s too early to judge the deal”. What you are really doing is criticizing alex’s decision making. Therefore you have to ask yourself what would you have done at the time? Alex doesn’t have the privilege of waiting 2 years then deciding if it was good or bad. Unless you have a better solution as to what should have been done, then you are just raining on jose’s parade.

    I’m not sure why parkes has this obsession with saving rogers’ money. What exactly is the benefit of that? Is your cable bill going down?

  19. The best time to evaluate the deal will be at the end of this year. At that point we can say 2011 at 7.3 MM (arb figure approx) + what he would make as a free agent, vs 5/65. If everybody is honest, with the way this year is going he’s probably signing for 7/140 (at least) as a free agent. If that’s the case, the Jays have one of the best hitters in baseball for the next few years at a great discount.

    One of the major worries was paying for his age 34 & 35 seasons. But, you have to take on back end risk to get front end value. It’s the way the business is unfortunatley.

    In the other thread, I asked what people think it would take to get Bautista into the HOF question. In other words, Between now and when he retires what would he have to do to say “this guy might be a hall of famer”? With the fact that he got started so late as a regular, and with his power, what would you need? 6 more years like 2010-2011? 7?? 6 years of 2010/2011 plus 3 or 4 years of 30 HR? I’m not saying the HOF is worth talking about now. More asking because it’s a unique situation, so should garner different opinions.

  20. If Bautista regresses to David Ortiz’s offensive level, it’s still a great deal, yes.

  21. Dustin, Jose is 30 and locked up till he’s 34. Ortiz ops’d .909 from 31-34. If jose did that it would be a good deal. Also given that oritz can’t play defense and jose can play 3rd and OF makes him even more valuable. Also consider that the avg ops in the AL is .708 which is about a 50 pt drop from 2 years ago. So even an .850 ops would be far exceeding the avg player.

  22. Three things I think you need to factor in as well:
    1. This start alone, and the promise it gives for the rest of the season being entertaining, is worth 20 million alone. Actually, given that its not my money, its probably worth the whole 65.
    2. At 13 million per year, this contract is hardly mammoth. In metric terms, I believe it equals two ‘Riveras’ while Jose’s attitude alone is worth at least 6 ‘Riveras’
    3. Re: Ortiz. I have one word for you Dustin; it starts with S and ends in a tarnished legacy…

  23. Is it too early to evaluate the contract? Yes it is – I agree. That said, What a PR nightmare it would have been if Bautista has an MVP season this year and become a free agent: We’d either be on the hook for $100 mil+ for at least the same number of years or get to watch yet another star take his bat and glove elsewhere.

  24. Gee it’s pretty easy to evaluate a contract if you wait until after the results are in.

  25. GP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
    38 139 19 41 6 1 7 19 19 19 0 0 .295 .377 .504 .881

    not too bad for Ortiz so far, but i do not know the specifics of his contract. Apparently I am on of the only “Blankards” who agree with Dustin, yeah Bautista is on pace to make this one of the best signings in history, but 5 years is an extremely long contract to a player nearing years in which REGULARLY players start to wane off as age catches up with them. Anyways i hope Joey Bats makes this contract worth every penny plus some, and here’s to AA building a winning team around an exeptional player before age catches up with him…”Baseball compels him to regress toward the mean.” that was a fuckin GREAT statement.

  26. Can you imagine the hysteria that would be going on right now if he wasn’t signed to the deal. The distraction it would cause and the idea that the Jays would likely trade him at the deadline…probably to the Yankees for Red Sox? That would be brutal. Even worse would be watching him do this in a Red Sox uniform. I guess we could talk about a package of prospects we received that might be good in 3 years. That would be fun. I don’t want to even think about what the offense would look like if he wasn’t a Blue Jay. He alone makes watching Blue Jay games very fun. He is currently one of the top 5 players in the game.

    I thought the contract was a little rich (more sticker shock) but had no problem with the length considering 5 years was probably what it was going to take to sign him. I was prepared to give AA the benefit of the doubt considering he probably knows the situation better than anyone. So far he’s looking pretty smart.

  27. ”Baseball compels him to regress toward the mean.”

    No, that’s a ridiculously stupid statement. This is not flipping quarters. Barry Bonds didn’t regress to the mean.

  28. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You fucking loser Parkes. Just admit you were wrong, and that you are not as smart as you act. But by all means, if you want to prove my point further, keep trying to defend your idiotic, out-dated arguments, while Jose FUCKING DOMINATES ALL OF BASEBALL.

    Once again, BAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    To still argue this deal cannot be judged as “good” is hilarious.

    WHAT COULD THE JAYS GET RIGHT NOW FOR JOSE BAUTISTA?

    I’ve noticed how silent you’ve been on twitter during Jays games. why is that? I wonder.

  29. this was an excellent signing by AA. This is AA’s first big deal & he has obtained a top 5 MLB player at a 50% discount over what he would get in FA at the end of the season.

    As noted, the OPS in the league is weakining to .708. Thus, there will be a premium paid fo above avg hitters & especially HR hitters.

    Jays fans are weary of big contracts because they turned out poorly in the JP era. Overbay,Wells, Rios & BJ Ryan did not provide a good return on investment.

    I am curious if Rogers will allow AA to do another LT contract in 2012 given how successful this has turned out.

    JP lost credibility after all his FA signings went bust. he was not given a chance in 2009 to try again.

    I am curious how long the Jo Jo Reyes & Juan Rivera will be allowed to play full time.?

    If Cecil performs well in Vegas will he be called up, or will the jays keep him down there to give Reyes as many starts as possible?

  30. And by the way, if Jose Bautista produces at Ortiz’s rate through age 34, while actually contributing defensively, he’ll be worth much more than $65m, you fucking imbecile.

    Why don’t you write a post, using WAR, to support your statement regarding this point?

    Now I know why the “fuck off parkes” campaign survived for so long. You truly are a little man; a hypocrite, and a coward.

    And to think, I was once a fan of your work (when you didn’t take yourself so seriously, that is).

  31. Parkes, I agree with you that looking at whether or not the contract is a good one overall this early on is in some ways flawed. He might yet, as another commenter put it, turn into a pumpkin. However, I disagree with you and Travis regarding the “process” part of the argument.

    AA’s stated process has basically been to try and improve the team by obtaining and retaining as many impact players as possible because to win the AL East you need more of them than to win any of the other divisions. Taking a lower risk approach, while very practical in other divisions, is less so in this one because the bar is set so much higher. The Red Sox and Yankees are successful because they take a lot of risks and enough of them work out for them (if not in a “value” sense then at least in an overall on-field performance one) that they wind up winning a lot of games even if some of their highly paid players start to stink.

    The Jays (and Rays and Orioles) are less able to afford highly-paid players stinking which I think is where your argument comes from. Does that mean that they should NEVER take financial risks on players? I don’t think so. I think that writing off any potential way of obtaining value is a mistake and even at higher prices players can be a value.

    If AA, his front office staff and his scouts believed this past offseason that based on their own analysis Jose Bautista was set to be an impact player for several more seasons then the contract was an example of good process. Even if they thought that the most likely scenario was him being the kind of player who is roughly worth his contract (read: not an offensive force of the highest order, but a borderline All-Star player from year-to-year), but that he had a slightly better chance of being worth more than that then being worth less then it’s a worthwhile gamble. In that case you’re saying that you have a good chance of covering your “losses” with some potential upside value-wise even if there is some risk tied to it.

    To win in this division risks must be taken. Those risks can be trading proven players for prospects (the Halladay trade and Marcum trade), swapping veterans in an effort to buy low and sell high (the Gonzalez trade), or taking a financial risk on a player who you think (based on your scouting and statistical analysis) just might be the real deal even if their track record isn’t as long as it is with other players.

    Jose Bautista is obviously a perfect example of the third type of risk listed. It’s the kind of move that can blow up in your face so it takes some stones to actually go through with it, but it also can pay huge dividends. In addition, I think that it’s more sensible to take that kind of risk with your own players than with free agents and not just for the “intangible” elements that people throw around (comfort with the team, coaching staff, city, etc.). It is a more sensible risk because of the fact that you have spent more time analyzing their process as a player and scouting their abilities than other teams have, keeping the player’s perceived value lower than their true value. Having more information than everybody else is a market inefficiency that can be exploited.

  32. I should add that I’m not trying to imply that those are the only ways in which risks can be taken. There are other examples too like signing international amateurs to seven-figure or even eight-figure contracts or trading FOR proven players as opposed to dealing them for prospects depending on your team’s competitive window, roster construction, and other related factors.

    It is rare to find a low-risk/high-reward move that you can make in baseball just as it is in business. Usually if you are looking for a potentially high reward then you have to be willing to take on at least moderate risk. The best places to do this are in areas where the potential reward is even higher than other people realize or where the risk in lower than most think for one reason or another. The Jays appear to have correctly identified a risk that fits BOTH of those criteria. We will see how it plays out, but I don’t fault the process if they thought that was the case at the time they signed the contract.

  33. As someone who liked the contract, or at least, didn’t mind it, I have to agree with Parkes in this case. Assuming the Blue Jays would not have resigned Jose after this year, the question is not whether Bautista would be worth the contract this year, but whether he’d be worth the contract over the next four years.

    On the other hand, if the Blue Jays were going to sign Bautista no matter the cost, then they made a fantastic contract extension. I don’t think they were going to do that.

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