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Jose Bautista puts Blue Jays in very tough spot with Monday deadline for long-term deal

Feb 11, 2011, 10:19 AM EST

Jose Bautista

Albert Pujols‘ self-imposed deadline for long-term contract talks with the Cardinals is understandably grabbing all the headlines, but Jose Bautista setting a similar timetable on potential talks with the Blue Jays has flown somewhat under the radar.

Bautista, who like Pujols will be eligible for free agency following this season, told Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun that he won’t negotiate with the Blue Jays once Monday’s scheduled arbitration hearing has come and gone.

Here’s more from the reigning AL home run king:

I won’t be open to it after the hearing. After the hearing, I believe we will notify the team that [a long-term deal] is not going to be a possibility, unless it’s in that window they have from the end of the season until the free agency period begins. My desire is to play in Toronto long term but, after the hearing, or during the season, I have come to the conclusion that it’s probably not the best thing for me to be negotiating any type of deal. I want to focus on the game and trying to win ball games. If I’m in that type of negotiation, it’s going to shift my focus from what I need to worry about and that’s baseball. I don’t want my mind to be elsewhere when I come to the ballpark to help my team win.

All of which forces the Blue Jays into making a very tough decision. If they believe Bautista’s monster 2010 season is representative of the type of player he’ll be in future years they should be doing whatever they can to sign him before Monday’s deadline, because a) coming anywhere close to repeating his 2010 performance will only raise his asking price, and b) once he hits the open market as a free agent there’s seemingly very little chance of the Blue Jays out-bidding 29 other teams to re-sign him.

Of course, if the Blue Jays are like most people and view Bautista’s breakout skeptically then it makes sense that they wouldn’t commit to him long term before seeing him repeat that level of production. It’s a catch-22, because if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal and actually repeats his 2010 numbers he’s probably a goner anyway. And sure enough Bautista told Fidlin that “as far as I know” the Blue Jays “haven’t even started” any negotiations with his agent, so clearly they have no plans to work out a long-term deal by Monday.

As for the actual arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday, he submitted a $10.5 million figure while the Blue Jays countered at $7.6 million. So even avoiding the hearing by working out a compromise is no sure thing.

  1. proudlycanadian - Feb 11, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    Both sides are in a very difficult spot on this one. I see no animosity on either side. Given his age, if he becomes a free agent next year, so be it. The Jays would get 2 draft picks.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 11, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      He’s not that much older then Josh Hamilton. Why wouldn’t the Jays offer him a 2 year deal say worth $22 to $24MM for both years? That would seem to me to be a win, win. The Jay’s aren’t really committing to a long term contract and Bautista gets “shown a little lover” so to speak from the Jays.

      • proudlycanadian - Feb 11, 2011 at 11:32 AM

        The Jays are trying to build for the long term through the draft and by trading for young players.If Bautista has a great year, good for him. It would establish his market value. I really doubt that he is currently looking for a 2 year contract.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 11, 2011 at 11:54 AM

        proudly – it wouldn’t hurt though if the Jays tested the waters on a two year deal. Like said it would seem to be a win, win. If he’s not interested no harm, no foul.

  2. nicosamuelson2 - Feb 11, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    You can’t blame him. The offers aren’t going to be as good after he inevitably crashes back to earth.

    The Blue Jays, though, would be wise to ask Bautista to prove it.

  3. missthemexpos - Feb 11, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Flashbacks of the Vernon Wells long term deal are no doubt in the minds of Blue Jay management on whether to sign Bautista to a multi-year deal. I am inclined to agree with proudlycanuck on how to handle this one. Plus, who knows what sort of mid season offer the Jays might get from a team that feels it needs Bautista as the final piece for a playoff run.

    • proudlycanadian - Feb 11, 2011 at 11:33 AM

      Agreed!

  4. Joe - Feb 11, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Key numbers here: 94, 96, 91, 99, 166

    Those are Bautista’s OPS+ numbers over the course of his career.

    Another key number: 30. That’s his age.

    The Blue Jays are not at all in a tough spot here. Maybe he’s really a new player now. But asking them to bet a long-term contract on it? That seems like an obvious “we’ll accept the risk that we lose a good player” decision.

    • spudchukar - Feb 11, 2011 at 1:44 PM

      Only once before in his career has Bautista gotten 500 ABs. He may not reach 54 HRs this year but I bet he hits 40, and drives in 100. With all the cash the Jays possess I would try to lock him up for as few years as he will accept.

      • cur68 - Feb 11, 2011 at 9:43 PM

        spudchukar you have seen it. That’s the thing most people miss when they dismiss Bautista’s career; the at bats. The other key things to factor in to that were the constant distractions consisting of his many fielding position, the lack of intensive hitting coaching and the outright lack of control over his own destiny he must have felt every day in the major leagues. Remove the distractions and give him the at bats and what do you have? OPS of 166. The Jays would be fools to not show him a bit of love. If he hits the free agent market he’ll be a Yankee so fast his Blue Jay cap will be lift spinning in the air. We all will lose if that happens.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 12, 2011 at 7:10 AM

        To spudchukar – I don’t disagree with you about the Jays showing him a “little love” with more then a one year contract. They certainly don’t need to go down the Wells path but a “little love” wouldn’t hurt. Two or three years in the $22 to $35MM range shouldn’t be a burden for the Jays I do disagree with you about his HR total though I think it will be much closer to 30 then to 40 but that’s just an opinion. I say that because last year he took everyone by surprise that’s not going to happen this year. One final comment the Jays better hope he has a big year no make that a very big year otherwise the Jays are going nowhere but down in the standings in 2011. That’s just my opinion as well.

  5. fordman84 - Feb 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Jose is trying to force the Jays hand, and the Jays are not falling for it. The guy has one good year and wants to land a massive long term deal. Can’t fault him, but I don’t think the Jays are going to get in a rush to lock him up.

    And I promise you this. If he is sitting at 20HR’s at the all star break, the Jays will give him an offer that he won’t turn down.

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