Last year at this time, there were rumblings that Cito Gaston was going to have Jose Bautista be an every day player instead of DH/1B Randy Ruiz. Cito liked Jose's attitude, and approach at the plate. Cito wanted to give Bautista a chance to play every day. Cito saw something he liked in the way that Dwayne Murphy had helped Jose change his swing. I however, did not. I was practically jumping up and down screaming for Ruiz to play, and not Jose. Ruiz played a short stint in Toronto at the end of the 2009 season and in just 33 games he hit for a .313 average, with 10 home runs, and 25 runs scored. Before being called up to Toronto, Ruiz was down with Toronto's AAA affiliate in Las Vegas Where despite playing a short season there, he was named the Pacific Coast League MVP. How could he not crack the everyday roster? We had all seen what Jose Bautista was: a competent utility man who is unimpressive as an every day player. I insisted Bautista's 10 home runs in the month of September 2009 was a fluke.
Boy was I wrong.
This offseason, we were hoping for a deal to get done with Jose Bautista before the start of the 2011 campaign. Looks like we got our wish. ESPN is reporting tonight that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista are very close to signing a five year contract extension believed to be for $65 million pending a physical. This is almost exactly what I was hoping they would sign him for. I thought that if they could get him for between 3 to 5 years at around 12 to 15 million per year that they should lock him up, and it appears that they have.
There is a strong opinion among some fans and media members that Bautista hasn't proven himself enough to warrant a multi-year contract. However if this is indeed the terms and money that the two sides have agreed on, I think it's a great move for both the player and the team. Do I think Jose is a 50 home run a year hitter? No, but I do think he's a 30 to 40 home run hitter. Yes, last year was his one big year, but it started the September before. He hit 64 home runs in a season plus a month. It would appear that he has found his swing, and personally I think it is here to stay. What I found really encouraging about his season last year is that in the second half when he should have been cooling off, and pitchers should have been figuring him out, he actually got better.
Even if he does regress to a 20 home runs this year, he's not a total bust at that salary. Overpaid sure, but not a bust. A lot of positive comments have been made from players and coaches in Toronto regarding Bautista's club house presence. He's well liked, and respected. The type of guy you want to have around your organization. Jose is also a defensive asset. He can also play third base, and right field, with a cannon of an arm that helped him tie for second in the majors in outfield assists last year. There's a lot more up side to Jose Bautista than just his bat.
But what if he doesn't regress? What if his best years are still yet to come? What if he is a 40 home run hitter? That salary would look pretty good then would it not?
If you're still of the opinion that it's too much money to an unproven player, I ask you to consider this. Jayson Werth has hit over 30 home runs one time (36), and he's only hit more than 20 home runs in three seasons. Three seasons of 20 or more home runs and he just landed a 7 year 126 million dollar contract.
If he does hit 35 home runs this year, what would Bautista have gotten as a free agent next off season?
I like this deal.