JAYS FROM THE COUCH LOOKS AT WHY JOSE BAUTISTA COMING BACK TO BLUE JAYS IN 2017 IS UNLIKELY.
After back to back ALCS appearances, it seemed as though the Blue Jays were one or two pieces away from really contending for a World Series title if they could also retain their own free agents. The drama of Edwin Encarnacion’s free agency wasn’t fun. The poor work by his agent Paul Kinzler, eventually landed Encarnacion with the team that eliminated the Blue Jays in the playoffs this season, Cleveland, for a 3+1/$60 million. This deal is significantly less than the 4 years $80 million the Blue Jays offered him at the beginning of free agency.
As more news comes to light from both Shi Davidi of Sportsnet and Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star, there could have been incentives attached to Edwin’s 4/80, to potentially hit $100million. Below is an excerpt from DiManno’s Toronto Star piece on Encarnacion’s departure.
Now let’s circle back to the Blue Jays other major free agent, outfielder Jose Bautista. We have come a long way from Spring Training 2016, when Bautista said home town discounts didn’t exist in his world, to his demands of a 5 year $150 million contract. At the time this idea wasn’t completely crazy, this coming from the man who brought you the bat flip, a 54 home run season, and someone who filled his share of seats through Toronto’s leaner seasons in the late 00’s. Bautista has been one of Toronto’s most polarizing sports figures in my lifetime, and as much as I would love to see him back in a Blue Jays uniform, the chances of him re-signing are looking slimmer and slimmer.
Let’s start by being brutally honest, Bautista had a really, really poor contract year, and at 36 years old, it may have really cost him. Playing in 116 games this season, missing some time due to some freak injuries, Bautista hit .234/.366/.452, with 22 home runs – his lowest HR total since 2009, where he played 113 games and hadn’t really come into his own yet. His ISO dropped to .217, his walk rate remained the same but his strikeout percentage rose to 19.9%, another high since 09. Bautista’s 1.4 WAR was mostly due to his bat, which could remain valuable in the Blue Jays lineup, but at his age there is cause to be concerned after such a rough season.
This poor offensive output was met with Bautista’s continued decline in the field. The Blue Jays corner outfield positions are the biggest offseason need right now. With the Blue Jays losing out on the Dexter Fowler sweepstakes, and according to some news outlets not even close to making a trade for Pirates Andrew McCutchen, the Jays are desperate. A Bautista reunion on a one year deal seems logical to fill their need at this position, but questions still remain who knows at this point if he can play OF everyday while staying healthy, and remaining productive in the field.
Right now, the Blue Jays haven’t offered Bautista anything more than the $17.2 qualifying offer. With the new CBA coming into effect, this is the last year the qualifying offer system will be in place, which means this is the last time the Blue Jays could have three potential first round draft picks. The draft pick attached to Bautista is really bringing down his value, and the biggest reason why he remains unsigned in late December.
Back in 2014, Matthew Murphy of The Hardball Times wrote about the net value of draft picks. As explained in the article, and adjusting slightly for inflation, that first round draft pick attached to Bautista is worth around $8-$10 million in the long run. This means if Bautista does sign for something around the qualifying offer, that deal translates to a 1 year close to $30 million dollar contract. Since this is the final year of the qualifying offer the Jays, who are trying to revamp their farm system, have the ability to draft three first rounders. The draft pick attached to Bautista has become as valuable as the player it’s attached to.
Bautista will most likely receive something short of the qualifying offer, which is the market for an aging power hitter. Edwin might be the exception, being a few years younger, and having an excellent contract year. Carlos Beltran, who is 39 years old and posted a 2.3 WAR in 151 games, signed a 1 year $16 million dollar contract with the Astros, who plan to use him splitting time between left field and DH. Beltran had a better contract year than Bautista did, and had no draft pick attached to him signed for less than the qualifying offer.
In hindsight, Bautista probably would have been smart to accept the original qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, replaying another contract year, and being able to test the waters without a draft pick attached to him. It will be interesting to see what kind of deal Bautista ends up signing. Something around $10 million average annual salary, with maybe some incentives attached, and an option for a second year seems likely. Whatever the deal ends up being, it will most likely not be coming from the Blue Jays.
The home run call from Game 5 of ALDS two years ago still remains to be my favorite sports moment of my life, and my desktop, and iPhone ringtone. As much as I want Bautista to stay, it seems very unlikely at this point that the Blue Jays re-sign him even for one season. The offseason can be an exciting time for fans. Teams that make moves have something to look forward to next summer, but for teams like the Blue Jays, it’s been the exact opposite. The Blue Jays have made some significant signings in Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, but with 2017 just around the corner, the remaining outfield options are getting bleak.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Keith Allison-flickr-CreativeCommons
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Spencer Redmond is a Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. His loves in life are the NBA, MLB, Stats, and his dog Parker.