With the end of the MLB regular season fast approaching, GMs around the league should only be thinking about two things: 1) playoffs, for those who were lucky enough to clinch a spot, and 2) free agency.
This postseason will have one of the most memorable free agent classes in recent history, with the likes of superstars such as Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Reddick, Edwin Encarnacion, and others, all vying for big contracts. But perhaps no name sticks out more than Jose Bautista’s, not necessarily because he's the best player on the list (you'd be hard pressed to convince anyone of that after the season he's had), but because he's one of the most exciting players in the game, and one who made his preferences crystal clear at the beginning of he season by stating that he wants a big, five-year contract.
The question is: is he worth it? In particular, should his current team, the Toronto Blue Jays, be willing to pay it?
Let’s consider both sides of the argument. Here are 8 reasons why the Toronto Blue Jays should resign Jose Bautista and 7 reasons why they shouldn’t.
Reasons They Should Resign
15 8. Loyalty
Simply put: the Jays should resign Bautista because they owe it to him. Josh Donaldson might be the current team MVP, but no one has done more for baseball in the city of Toronto—heck, in all of Canada—than Joey Bats. You could argue that the team never would have made the playoffs last season were it not for the heroic trade deadline efforts of former GM Alex Anthopoulos, who brought in Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, and Ben Revere, but at the same time it was Bautista who put the team in a position to finally make that postseason push.
Since joining Toronto in 2009, he has been a perennial All-Star and one of the most feared sluggers in the league, leading all of baseball in home runs from 2010-2011. In total, he has hit 262 home runs (and counting) as a bluebird. He’s earned his payday.
14 7. Not Your Average 36-Year-Old
There’s no denying that he is getting older—at nearly 36 years of age, he’s one of the oldest guys in the league—but he’s not your average 36-year-old. Bautista prides himself on staying in top shape, what he calls “body management.” One way in which he does this is through meticulous meal-planning, making sure that he knows exactly what he puts into his body at all times by using a personal chef; another way is through exercising. According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Bautista even travelled to Spain to meet with soccer superstars Neymar, Leo Messi, and Luis Suarez to discuss workout routines.
So while he won’t be able to stave off Father Time for good, you have to take Bautista’s age with a grain of salt.
13 6. Heart And Soul Of The Team
Before there was Tulo and Donaldson—hell, even before there was Encarnacion—there was Bautista. Jose has been the heart and soul of the team since 2010, when he launched a league-leading 54 home runs and rekindled Toronto’s interest in the team. They might not have been a playoff team just yet, but for the first time in what felt like ages, something exciting was happening to baseball north of the border, paving the way for an eventual countrywide love affair with the Jays.
To this day, even though he might not be the best player on the team anymore, he’s still the face (and beard) of the franchise. Without him, the Jays could suffer an identity crisis from which they might not recover for years.
12 5. 2017: Rebound Season
To say the least, 2016 has been a disappointing season for the Dominican-born slugger. After being set back by several injuries, Bautista has only managed to hit 19 home runs so far with his lowest batting average since his rookie season. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time, as Bautista pressured the front office at the beginning of the year to give him exactly what he wanted by saying that he would not negotiate his contract demands.
An optimist, however, might look at this season and say that Bautista will look to rebound in 2017. Sure 2016 has been a disappointment, but knowing Jose, one of the most competitive players in the game, it will only add fuel to his fire and make him want to be that much better next year. Remember, it was just last season that he hit 40 home runs with 114 RBI, so he’s not over the hill just yet.
11 4. The Bat Flip
Certain moments in sports are destined to go down in history. One of those moments was Jose’s famous (or infamous, if you happen to be from Arlington) bat flip during the fifth and deciding game of the American League Division Series between the Jays and the Rangers, which was later voted the best offensive play of the year by Esurance.
That bat flip alone should be worth $150 million, as not only did it send the Jays to the ALCS for the first time in over two decades, but it became an important moment in Canadian baseball history, as well, one that brought the entire country together and helped to put the Jays on the map. Thanks to exciting moments like that, the Jays are now one of the most popular teams in all of baseball, as they’re currently fifth in the league in home and overall attendance (they were 25th when Bautista first joined the team).
10 3. If They Don’t Sign Him, Boston Might
When it comes to considering whether or not they should resign Bautista, the Jays front office needs to consider not only what he might bring to their team, but what he might bring to another team, as well. Bautista is still an elite player, so if they don’t sign him someone will, and there’s a good chance that someone will be the Boston Red Sox, who are losing their slugging DH, David Ortiz, to retirement. Bautista would be a perfect fit for Boston for a number of reasons: 1) playing DH would prevent him from sustaining injuries (both his injuries this season occurred while playing the outfield) and 2) their short leftfield porch is perfect for his pull-happy swing.
Should current Jays GM Ross Atkins decide not to resign Bautista, they wouldn’t just be losing a slugger; they’d be gaining an opponent.
9 2. He Wants To Be In Toronto
Since the start of this season, so much has been made about what the team wants, or what the GM thinks will be best for the team, but it’s also important to consider what the player himself wants. That’s not to say that it should be the sole consideration, or that just because a player wants to play for a certain team he should be given his way, but a player’s desires should at least be brought into consideration, and Bautista has stated on several occasions that, if possible (i.e., if the money’s there), he would love to stay in Toronto (his exact words were, “I love the city… I’d be stupid to leave”). That might sound like a politically correct statement, but given the fact that the Jays gave him his first real start in the bigs, and given his strong ties to the city, it seems genuine.
Because Toronto is a unique baseball team (i.e., the only non-American team), it has seen its fair share of players who clearly did not want to be there. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t want to be on a team, you won’t play well, or you won’t help the team win. If we are to take him at his word, then Bautista obviously wants to be in Toronto, which, at the very least, means you’ll get the most out of him. How much he has left to offer, however, is another issue.
8 1. Best Option
Bautista might be the Jays’ most expensive option, but he’s still their best one. If he were to go, who would take his place? After a tremendous first half to the season, Michael Saunders has added virtually nothing to the team since making his first All-Star team, and Melvin Upton Jr. has proven to be more of a liability than an asset, striking out in nearly a third of his at bats since coming over from the Padres.
If anything, the future of the Jays outfield belongs to the young guns, like Dalton Pompey, who has already had a taste of the big leagues and shown flashes of brilliance, and top prospect Anthony Alford. But it might be years down the road before they’re ready to take over, and until then, they’ll need a proven veteran like Bautista to hold down the position and maybe even serve as a sort of mentor by offering up some of his wisdom.
7 Reasons They Shouldn't Resign
7. Age - 36
No matter how much Bautista works out or watches what he eats, there’s no avoiding the fact that he’s 36. It might not be an issue right away, but it almost certainly will be down the line, especially considering the fact that he’s looking for a 5-year deal, which would put him in his early 40s. David Ortiz has proven this year that it’s possible to be productive at such an age, but then again Big Papi is an exception to the rule. Aside from an injury-shortened 2012, the Red Sox DH has played in at least 137 games every season since 2009, whereas Bautista has missed big chunks of 2012, 2013, and 2016 all due to injury. Which brings us to our next point…
6 6. Injury Prone
He’s injury prone, or at least that appears to be the case now. So much for staving off Father Time with diet and exercise, because Bautista has only played in 106 games this season after being placed on the 15-day disabled list twice, both times for what appeared to be minor injuries. Whether or not this trend will continue for him going forward is yet to be seen, but it has probably cast enough doubt in the minds of the Jays’ front office that they won’t want to take a chance on him for five more years. Even when he is seemingly healthy, Jose appears to be affected by old age, as time and time again he has missed pitches that he would have crushed in years past. In just 107 games so far, he’s struck out 94 times, well above his career strikeout/game ratio.
5 5. The Stats Speak For Themselves
Bautista’s strikeout rate isn’t the only alarming number this season. His statistics have fallen off across the board, with a .230 batting average, 62 RBI, and just 19 home runs. Perhaps most shocking of all is that last number, as he’s gone from being the best slugger in the game to not even the best slugger on his team (he’s sixth on the team in home runs this season; although to be fair he’s had far fewer at bats than Donaldson and Encarnacion).
In his prime, he had a whopping .600+ slugging percentage, yet this year he is just over .400, further reinforcing the idea that perhaps he is past his prime, no matter how much he insists he isn’t.
4 4. You Don’t Pay For What A Player’s Done; You Pay For What He’ll Do
The strongest case for resigning Bautista is his past record—that is, what he’s accomplished for the Jays since he joined the team in 2008. And it is indeed impressive what he’s done, as he’s established himself as one of the greatest Blue Jays of all time. He’s fifth in franchise history in runs batted in and second only to Carlos Delgado in home runs.
But you don’t pay a guy for what he has done; you pay him for what he will do. And what he will do is yet to be seen and far too uncertain. No doubt Jose Bautista should be revered as one of the greatest Toronto Blue Jays of all time, but that doesn’t mean he deserves a huge contract.
3 3. Encarnacion and Bautista: They Can Only Afford One
Also becoming a free agent at the end of the season is Edwin Encarnacion, and chances are the Blue Jays only have room for one of the two in their budget. At the beginning of the season, it was a tossup as to who the Jays should resign, as both players had similar numbers last season, but if 2016 were a tryout then the choice is simple: you have to go with Edwin. Whereas Bautista has had a nightmare of a season going into free agency, Double E has excelled by having a career-year with 42 home runs (tying his single-season best, which he is likely to break by the end of the year) and a career high 124 RBI and counting.
2 2. Asking For Too Much
At the end of the day all of this discussion about whether or not the Jays should resign Bautista might be for naught, as it could very well turn out that his contract demands are simply too unreasonable. According to reports at the beginning of the year, he is looking for a contract somewhere in the ballpark of 5 years and $150 million, which would make him one of the highest paid players in the game. While they have stepped up their game a lot spending-wise in years past thanks to Anthopoulos, the Jays haven’t exactly been known to spend a lot of money on players, and new GM Ross Atkins has no loyalty to Bautista. But aside from whether or not they want to pay the money, they might simply not be able to pay it.
1 1. Odd Man Out
Thanks to the addition of another powerful bat in the lineup in Troy Tulowitzki—who, unlike Bautista, also brings Gold Glove caliber defense to the equation—and the ever-consistent performance by Encarnacion and Donaldson, the Jays might not need Bautista after all. That is, he’s become the odd man out.
At the beginning of the season, many fans fretted over what a Bautista-less Toronto would look like, but they got a taste of it this year when he was sidelined twice due to injuries, and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. The world didn’t end. As Jeff Blair of Sportsnet wrote earlier this month, “A future without Jose Bautista, frankly, no longer seems all that scary.” That might sound a bit cold or callous, but at the end of the day, baseball isn’t a game of emotions—it’s a business.
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