Word on the street is the Toronto Blue Jays are nearing an agreement with outfielder Jose Bautista. The deal would be a five-year extension worth about $65 million, thus avoiding arbitration, according to MLB.com.
Let's put that into perspective. Bautista, who recently turned 30 years old, will make around $13 million annually until he is 35 years old. Isn't it amazing what one out-of-the-blue season of 50-plus home runs can do for a guy?
Bautista did hit 54 big flies in 2010, most in all of baseball. But this is a guy who hit a total of 59 home runs over five seasons coming into 2010.
He's been a journeyman most of his career. In 2004, his first season in the big leagues, he played for four different clubs (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kansas City and Tampa Bay). His career high in home runs prior to last season was 16 in 2006.
So at 30 years old, with no real impressive track record to speak of, it is a bit of a head scratcher that the Blue Jays would decide to dish out that much money. They already have a number of power hitters, most of which are under team control for the next few years—Adam Lind, Aaron Hill (their current contracts include a slew of club options) and Travis Snider.
In comparison, the Kansas City Royals gave Billy Butler a four-year extension worth about $30 million—or about $5.5 million less annually than Bautista will be making. Butler, who is about five years younger than Bautista, still has a ways to go to become a star in this game—but some would argue that he is much closer and has a better chance than Bautista ever had or will have.
Similarly, the Cincinnati Reds locked up their star outfielder, Jay Bruce, with a six-year, $51 million extension. At 23 years old, Bruce still has the world in front of him and should become a member of the elite in a few years. Yet he too received less financially than Bautista, who may never come close to repeating his 2010 glory campaign.
Point is, it seems the Blue Jays may have been a bit too trigger-happy with locking up Bautista, especially when you consider the crop of hitters that are potential free agents after the 2011 season. Jose Reyes, Aramis Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, Kelly Johnson and Robinson Cano (whose contract does have an option tied to it—one that is almost certainly to be picked up by the Yankees) all have their current contracts expiring at the end of the year.
Was it wise to lock up Bautista and avoid the arbitration process? Perhaps. But five years at $65 million may have been a bit too much. It's quite possible that 2010 was not an aberration for Bautista and that he is destined to continue to produce at such a lofty pace. But based on his history, it just doesn't seem logical.
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