It was a source of contention in the winter when 35-year-old Jose Bautista didn’t bat an eye in asking for a six year deal from the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of his walk year this season. From a performance stand point, the right fielder can make any case he wants; outside of possibly David Ortiz, who doesn’t play a position, nobody has been more consistently productive at the plate at this age.
While Ortiz has .284/.378/.926 slash line in his career including six years floundering around in Minnesota, he had also never hit more than 31 HR in a year until his age 28 season, in 2004. Since then, Ortiz hit 414 home runs across 12 seasons through age 39 heading into this campaign. Ortiz will retire at the end of the 2016 season at the age of 40-years-old.
For Bautista, it’s a similar story. The righty slugger boasts a career: .257/.369/.867 line never exceeding 16 home runs for four different teams until his age 29 season in 2010 with the Blue Jays when he broke out for 54 long balls. In the past six seasons, Bautista has hit 227 home runs, averaging just under 38 home runs from age 29-34 (Ortiz averaged 36.5 in the same age span.)
So how do you make a case for a player who found his prime at an advanced age and has essentially been a better David Ortiz while playing the field?
Bautista’s Current Salary: $14 million (Final year of 5year/$65 million deal)
Bautista’s Free Agency Year: End of 2016 Season
Projected Salary: 4 years, $108 million (fifth year mutual option with $8 million buy out)
Why? Bautista is more valuable to Toronto than he is everywhere else at this point and that’s a differentiation that should be made. It’s highly unlikely another team will go to a fifth year but the Blue Jays are in the rare and unenvious position of needing to save face and sign a face of the franchise. This also means goodbye to Edwin Encarnacion if you are a Blue Jays’ fan.
Bautista’s six year request is pie-in-the-sky similar to Derek Jeter when he asked for about twice the amount he actually received upon his free agency in his mid thirties. The simple first step will be for Toronto’s front office to invite Bautista to try the market after putting out a 4 year/100 million dollar offer. Bautista will make them sweat for a month or so, not getting anything more than similar 3-4 year deals from AL teams (since his dwindling defense won’t work long-term in the NL) and then, to save face, like with Jeter, the Jays will give him slightly more money than the original offer.
So they will add two million per season to let Bautista look like he “won”, Bautista will resign to make the fans look like they “won” and the Jays will add a symbolic fifth year worth essentially an extra two million per season in buyout money.
Bautista will basically get a 4 year/$116 million dollar deal, or $29 million per season, when he asked for, allegedly, between $150-180 million and the Jays will get Bautista for essentially $29 million (keeping it under 30 million because of his advanced age) and keeping it to four years, which seems to be their comfort level.