Last week, Blue Jays GM and franchise saviour Alex Anthopolous signed 3B/RF Jose Bautista to a 5 year, $64m deal with a club option of a sixth year that would push the total value to $78m. The cynic looks at this deal and brings up the fact that this supposed slugger has only hit more than 16 homers in a season once, has a career .244 batting average and once bounced between four teams in one season. According to the cynic, the only possible explanation for Bautista’s otherworldly 2010 performance is ‘roids. The optimist ignores the past, instead looking at September 2009 and the 2010 MLB season, in which Bautista hit a combined 64 jacks, in large part due to a revitalized swing. The realist knows that the only way to judge this deal is to wait. There really is no way of judging Bautista’s contract until after the fact, since no player has ever in the history of sports had as perplexing a year as Bautista’s 2010 campaign.
When trying to come up with a solid comparison to Bautista for this article, I couldn’t.
It was as close to impossible as a team actually taking Vernon Wells and his $21m per year salary. Basically, there are the same chances of my finding a good comparison for Bautista as the NBA having a 2011-12 season (i.e. <1%). The closest player I thought of was Adam Dunn, a guy who signed with the White Sox for 4 years and $54m, only a little bit less than Bautista. Dunn’s slash line of .260/.356/.536 was worse than Bautista’s .260/.368/.617, as well as his power numbers, 38/103 which pale in comparison to Jose’s 54 bombs 124 rbis. This seemingly makes Bautista’s contract look good, except when you see that Dunn had not hit less than 38 or more than 40 home runs from 2005-2009. Over that same time frame, Bautista hit a grand total of 74 home runs. Not exactly a model of consistency, but maybe his exemplary fielding (Dunn is now a DH) and 2010 numbers make him a worth a similar amount of money.
No player has ever experienced the same leap in home runs that Bautista did from 2009-10, improving from 16 to 54. In 2010, Bautista had 12 more home runs than Albert Pujols, who is commanding a 10 year, $300m contract from the Cardinals. Pujols, like Dunn, has been shockingly consistent, being the first player to ever have at least a .300 BA, 30 homers, 30 doubles and 100 rbi in 10 straight seasons. A former Blue Jay, Jayson Werth was also a late bloomer. The Jays now have Jason Frasor to show for him (Nice going, J.P. Retardi). This offseason the Nationals gave him a 7 year, $126m ($18m per year) deal, after three years with the Phillies hitting an average of 29 home runs and 84 rbis. Werth is also a good fielder, but is not as flexible as Bautista is.
Lets try some other sports to find a good comparison for Jose. In 2007, QB Derek Anderson of the Cleveland Browns burst onto the scene, throwing for 3787 yards and 29 touchdowns. He led the Browns to a surprising 10-6 season, and was rewarded in the offseason with a 3 year, $24m contract (Remember there is a cap in the NFL, meaning players get paid significantly less than they do in the MLB. Consider, Tom Brady, at the top of his sport, is making the same amount of money per year as Jayson Werth per year, who at best is an above average outfielder). This means that Anderson’s contract was pretty similar to Bautista’s. Anderson never regained his 2007 form and has since been cut, though he can laugh about it now (see:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jErsW7rgHBs).
AA took a huge risk in signing Bautista to this long term extension, and unfortunately for Jays fans, all we can do is wait. And wait. And wait. In the end I think the Jays will be happy with this signing if Bautista continues his fantastic defensive play and .260 average while hitting 30 homers and knocking in 100 rbis per season. I believe that this is realistic, considering Bautista’s keen eye and revamped swing. Clearly, the Jays do too. Now let’s just hope that Bautista is more like Adam Dunn than Derek Anderson.