Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
I could use not talking about this Jose Bautista contract stuff any longer, seeing as the only movement we’re going to see on it from the Jays’ side of things is, I’m now exceptionally certain, when they let him move on into free agency next fall.
They’re definitely not going to trade him (so please stop that), but a day after we figured he was crazy for possibly asking for five years and $150-million — or figuring that figure was so outlandish that the report must be bunk — we’re learning that what he actually wants is more.
And that’s coming from the two best-sourced guys in the game, Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal.
Bautista reported ask of $150M, 5 yrs is indeed not exactly accurate, as Joey Bats said. At least years and total $ r MORE.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 24, 2016
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 24, 2016
If it’s true, it’s pretty amazingly absurd. Especially for a guy whose savvy we were praising two days ago because of how cognizant his is of how the club’s parent company operates.
Heyman points out that Bautista is in tremendous shape and showing no signs of decline — which, at least on the defensive side of the ball, I’d quibble with (and so would URZ and DRS — though they’d also say the only years he wasn’t straight-up bad in right field were 2012 and 2013) — and that Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cabrera are getting paid through their age 42 seasons. But, of course, all of that is completely beside the point.
Dave Cameron hits the nail on the head in a piece at FanGraphs (which was written back when it was only a reported five-year, $150-million ask):
It’s patently incorrect to look at what other players are going to get for their age 36-40 seasons on deals that start earlier. You simply can’t look at Cabrera’s deal with the Tigers, which covers his age 33-40 seasons, and pretend that the Tigers would have paid the same price for the last five years of the deal if they weren’t also buying out his age 33-35 seasons, and Bautista won’t have those to sell.
Jose, if the reports are accurate, is trying to make up a huge deficit with one swing, and of all people he should know that you just can’t do that. It’s unfortunate for him that he made so much less than his market value for the entirety of his current contract with the Blue Jays, but it was fortunate for him that they were willing to take the risk and lock him up for so long when they did, given that he had only one season as an elite slugger under his belt at the time.
We know now that he would have made significantly more if he hadn’t signed that deal and gone to free agency following the 2012 season, but that was hugely uncertain in the winter following 2011 — even for him, otherwise he wouldn’t have put pen to paper. But that doesn’t mean his market now is going to — or ought to — reflect those years he’s already cashed a cheque for. If this demand is true, and it holds, he’ll hit the open market and will surely see very quickly how crazy it is.
Just about every team will be willing to go to three years on him, some will be willing to offer him four, and the team that gives him an offer of five, if there is one, will probably be the one who gets him. But how many teams will go to six years? How many teams have ever give a player heading into his age-36 season that many years?
In lieu of actually doing research, I’m just going to go ahead and say none. (I crowdsourced this question, and the most anyone can seem to come up with is Barry Bonds getting five years and $90-million in 2002, heading into his age-37 year).
And as great a job as Jose has done of keeping himself in shape, and as advantageous a position as he has as the top bat in a weak free agent class, it seems inconceivable that the market next winter will tell him anything but exactly that.
Which is fine. Go see what the market says, Jose! You know he’d hate himself a little bit for once again giving up the chance to find out, and I’d wager that is precisely why he’s put such a ridiculous premium on getting himself locked up early.
But obviously for the Blue Jays the problem is that once other teams get involved in it, it’s going to be a whole lot harder for them to play ball. At least theoretically — or, more accurately, at least given the artificial constraints on the club’s budget.
So… maybe start to steady yourself for this not ending well. But in the meantime don’t get too hung up on the particulars of this ask. All it is is Jose’s way of saying that he badly wants to test the market and see what he’s really worth. Because it’s certainly not this, and he has to know that, even if he maybe doesn’t want to believe it. Time marches forward.