11:00 PM Eastern

To no one’s surprise, the Blue Jays announced this evening that they’d signed Jose Bautista to a five-year contract worth $65 million guaranteed, with a club option for a sixth year that could take the overall value of the deal to $78 million.

To my surprise, there was no out-of-the-box surprise creativity to it – no out clauses, no multiple-year options, no nothing, just a regulation deal.  It doesn’t include any performance incentives, nor is there a no-trade clause.

So now that we have all the information in front of us – is it a good deal?

The answer is, as it was before, that it depends on who Jose Bautista is.  If he has, in fact, become a productive middle-of-the-order, .850+ OPS guy on whom it can be counted to produce such numbers on a regular basis, then yes, it’s a good deal.  If he regresses to become the .750+ OPS guy who hit 14-16 home runs and who doesn’t hit right-handed pitching – the guy he was before September of 2009 – then it’s not.

Shame I can’t break out the good ol’ crystal ball and figure out what’s going to happen over the next five years.

There are a few things we do know, though.  We know that Bautista has an historical season in his rear-view mirror, that he has actually accomplished a 54-homer season, a .995 OPS, a season in which he’s walked 100 times and both driven in and scored 100 runs.  It’s not something we think he might be able to do someday, it’s something he has done.

We also know that Jayson Werth, with only three very good seasons to his credit – none of which were nearly as good as Bautista’s 2010 – signed a seven-year, $126 million deal this winter, and that that kind of contract would very well have been awaiting Bautista had he had a 2011 that was even 2/3 as good as his 2010.

As well, we know that the Blue Jays have money to spend on the people they believe will be part of what they hope will be a perennial championship contender beginning next year or the year after, and sustaining itself for the foreseeable future.

No matter how you see Bautista, this contract is a huge gamble.  The Blue Jays are accepting more of the risk than he is, given his track record, but he’s still leaving a potential $50+ million on the table.  The Jays’ outlay was going to be at least $7.6 million this year – and given Bautista’s track record, there’s more reason to believe the Jays would have won the arbitration hearing than not – so they’re ponying up an average of $14.1 million from 2012-2015 that they otherwise wouldn’t have been required to.

Alex Anthopoulos believes that Bautista can produce at a rate worthy of such salary over the next five years, and he could very well be right.  So many in the game seem to believe that Bautista is no one-year wonder, but I caution again that in the off-season following every one-year wonder’s big year, people have fallen all over themselves trying to show why this guy is different, why this guy is legit.  Maybe Bautista is.  I really hope he is.  But the Jays just bet $57 million that he is.

Still, if they lose that bet, it hardly cripples the franchise.  Rogers has money, and they have said for a couple of years now that they won’t be shy about spending it when the time is right.  Since he took over as GM, Alex Anthopoulos has spent money on beefing up the scouting department, on international signings, on over-slot bonuses to draft picks and to help make a couple of trades happen, but this is the first time he’s spent it on a big-time, big-league contract.

I don’t see Jose Bautista going back to being a below-average hitter who can’t stay in the line-up and who can’t hit right-handed pitching.  I don’t think I see him as a perennial all-star, either.  But he’s definitely a guy worth having, who can be a game-changer with his defense (though he’s going to be at third base this year, for sure, and maybe for the entirety of his Jays career depending on what Brett Lawrie can handle defensively), and surrounded with pieces like Travis Snider, Adam Lind, Yunel Escobar, Aaron Hill, Rajai Davis, J.P. Arencibia and, eventually, Lawrie, he can be a productive part of what’s shaping up to be a very good offense.

Earlier this winter, I had suggested that a three-year, $40 million contract to Bautista would be a good thing for the Jays.  Quite obviously, he wasn’t prepared to give away his one big shot at huge money for a commitment that short.  The deal he signed is for basically the same average annual value as the one I suggested, it’s just two years longer.  They may regret paying Bautista $14 million for each of his age 33 and 34 seasons, but they may not.  He’ll only be 34 when the contract expires, and while that’s past his prime, it’s not as though they’re locked into paying him huge money until he turns 37 or 38.

As I mentioned before, Anthopoulos has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt.  I applauded him in the past for gambling on guys like Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie and Anthony Gose.  In those cases, he gambled talent.  In Bautista’s case, he gambled money.

For the first time in a few years, we get to talk about someone who is staying in Toronto, and that’s a good thing.  Over the past few years, this city has said goodbye to Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells, Chris Bosh and Mats Sundin, among others.  Bautista isn’t in their company – not yet – but he’s the biggest and baddest Toronto has to offer right now, and he’s sticking around.

That’s not to say I believe this signing is a P.R. move ordered from on high (like the Wells contract was) – but that it’s a change from what we’ve recently become used to, and even if Bautista can’t live up to it, it’s nice to see a Toronto team take the shot.

20 Responses to “Five More Years”
  1. 1.

    Can you post the Baseball Central hour?

    - Anonymous
  2. 2.

    There is no guarantees in baseball. You could be 30/100 5 years in row and all of sudden it is over ie Delgado. I think the jays had to take the chance and show us fans they are serious about winning.

    - JP
  3. 3.

    hey mike really happy to see the jays lock up bautista for a while i have a question about something else though, why was rajai davis available to the the jays it seems they didn’t give up too much to get him, i mean like how many guys in the majors can steal 50 bases?

    - mitch
  4. 4.

    While this deal may or may not pan out, it is nice to see someone staying. You are absolutely right Mike.

    If Bautista can become a consistent 25-30 HR and 95-105 RBI while hitting over .250, this will be a good deal. If he somehow hits 40 HR a year, it will be a great deal. If he fails, I don’t think the fans will tear apart AA like we did for JP. AA is gambling, and you can’t win without a few risks involved.

    Besides, guys have “fluke” seasons where they hit 25 HR, not 54. It takes real talent and strength to do that. Obviously there is something to this guy and I am excited for the opportunity to watch him try and beat last years mark.

    - T.J.
  5. 5.

    Sorry, can’t agree with you there T.J.

    Brady Anderson (the poster-child for a fluke season) is a pretty good example, he it 16HR in ’95, 50HR in ’96 and 18HR ’97.

    On average he was a 20HR 65RBI guy for his career but had one historic season and everyone expected him to repeat in ’97. He was a deecent player that everyone became disapointed in becasue of one exceptioal season.

    He may not have stung the ball as hard as Bautista seems to but that doesn’t make Bautista a “real talent” and Anderson a fluke, they have/had different aproaches at the plate.

    I like Bautista, I like his intensity, I think he is probably better than his old self but not as productive as his ‘new’ self. Hopefully the fans don’t start screaming “You Suck Bautista!” if he doesnt hit more than 29HR in a season, or harp on him if he hits into the occasional double play.

    - Brandon in Ottawa
  6. 6.

    Well played Wilner.. Well played

    - Denny
  7. 7.

    Hi Mike!

    How much would someone make every if they hit 54 homers every year? That being said isn’t it true that if it looks, Sounds and smells like PR it’s probably PR?

    - habitant
  8. 8.

    while i love Jose, even as a career journeyman, i do feel this contract should have been performance based. Worse case scenario, (if he continues his brilliance), is come August, the Jays have a attractive commodity for trade bait, unless of course they’re leading the ALeast, which in my opinion is less likely than Jose hitting 40 homers. Antropoulos stated that “if we can’t bet on Jose, we can’t bet on anyone”, i hope his team mates agree…but it’s easier to bet with someone else’s money. congratulations Jose, i hope you earn every penny, and enjoy every penny.

    - cloudio
  9. 9.

    Mike,

    I don’t see this is a huge gample given the annual commitment of 14M. If you have to compete with big boys, you have to take at least this level of risk. Jays can’t contend consistent basis if they put all their cards in low risk trades, prospects, farm systems. Then Jays will be like Kansas City Royals forever or few seasons like Rays and then come to bottom.. I think the risk is low in this signing when you compare with next year free agents such as Fielder/Pujols ($250M/10Y). Even if they have track records, there will be huge risk involving age and physical build-up of both players. If you consider JB’s signing is a gamble, then how will you propose or support Fielder/Pujols type of contracts for Jays.

    - Nesan Thambi
  10. 10.

    Wake up and smell the coffee.

    Toronto fans absolutely LOVE to turn on their players for any sub-par performance.

    Bautista is going to have to hiot near 40HR and 100RBI or he’ll hear the boo birds.
    -Not fair but absolutely the way it will turn out.

    “Fans” in the stnads who make 40 grand love to heckle guys who aren’t earning their keep in their estimation.

    I suppose it wasn’t possible but I would far rather have seen them sign him for 3 years and an option for further at higher money if he hit certain targets (like 40 and 100).

    This is another very dangerous contract just due to the length of contract. If it HAD to be done, nice to see it go to a great clubhouse guy and representative for Blue Jay baseball.

    - Gary
  11. 11.

    I’m very happy the Jays signed Bautista to this deal. Like you said, this is the first time Rogers has shown that they are wiling to spend big money. I do think he will hit at least 30 home runs, .255 BA, 90 RBI’s, OPS .925 this season. That would be great numbers for a 13 million player. I do have confidence in him doing it because I think his approach to the plate & swing are great. Meaning he has an amazing eye for the outside corner & how close he stand to the plate, he’s daring pitchers to pitch inside. With his bat speed, that is where he likes the ball. On top of this, he will take a walk, probably another 100 walk season. I for sure will be going to more games this season than the one last year. Excited to see what Drabek, Snider, Arencibia & Morrow will do this season.

    - David
  12. 12.

    M-Dub,
    Havent been following the blog too closely so i apologize if this question has been done to death: What is going on with Chad Cordero? I was excited to hear we signed him but have heard/read nothing since. Loved him on the Nationals, before he got hurt, and hes a first round Expo pick so you know AA loves him. Whats the deal?
    thanks

    - chone figgins
  13. 13.

    MW, I have to ask…
    Has anyone ever beaten you in a fantasy baseball league?

    - Andrew
  14. 14.

    It could go either way but chances are Bautista will produce somewhere in the mid range of what he has done before.25+ HR,90+ RBIs and a 260 BA.That sounds good to me.The Jays had little choice in order to boost fan interest so I am glad they signed Jose.

    - Paul
  15. 15.

    When will you and Jerry begin airing spring training games? Feb 26? Say yes…

    - Mac
  16. 16.

    Hi Mike,

    A couple friends and I were having this discussion last night and I was wondering if you wanted to weigh in.

    Last Season both Jose Bautista and Shaun Marcum emerge as leaders in the club house. Both are liked and respected by the other players. However, they moved Marcum and kept Bautista, in keeping Bautista they stressed not only his work ethic like they did with Marcum, but also his Character.

    Are we right in concluding that though Marcum worked hard and was considered a leader in the Club house that he was not the kind of Character Leader that the Blue Jays (Anthopolis) was looking for on his team?

    Now I know and understand that you are privy to conversations and informaiton that are not supposed to be repeated, so if you have to a “No Comment” response is fine.

    - Jonathon
  17. 17.

    This deal does create one certainty, we will all have to hear the name Bill Risley in about 10 months.

    - chris 32 time caller
  18. 18.

    I think we will see the creative option type contract with Yunel Escobar. I don’t think that AA has abandoned that style/technique, it wasn’t a fit with the Jose Bautista circumstance.

    - chris 32 time caller
  19. 19.

    Hi Mike, Very concerned too learn that Travis Snider is already having some minor health issues. This is one player who really needs too have a full year and establish himself as an everyday player.
    Also you mentioned this past week when you were on with Jeff Blair you made a statement regarding EE!
    MW “I think if EE can stricly be the DH he will hit 40 homeruns”
    I think what you should have said. I can guarantee you that EE will spend 40 days on the DL.

    - dan
  20. 20.

    As a fan we have a lot less information than management.

    My inclination would have been to move him for a much more predictable asset. But of course I have no idea what Bautista would fetch on the market.

    But I like the guy so I’m happy to see him on the Jays. He’ll take a walk (a rare commodity on this team) and when he does swing it’s so explosive.

    - jmaron
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