Feb. 28, 2017
I'll start by saying this: Having this creative space as an outlet is awesome. Having to manage a job and family and trying to post stuff on a regular basis is freaking hard. I had this written two weeks ago. Even sent a text to a friend saying that I was going to have two posts up in the next 24 hours. So 240 hours later....who ever said I was good at math...just missed a decimal point along the way. Any ways, on to the task at hand!
It was just over a year ago that Jose Bautista sat in the dugout at the spring training complex in Dunedin, Florida wearing a shirt that read HOME IS TORONTO. Those of us who follow the Blue Jays closely; probably weren’t surprised about the words that were coming out of his mouth shortly there after when asked about contract negotiations. "I’m not willing to negotiate even right now. I don’t think there should be any negotiation. I think I’ve proved myself and the question has been asked what will it take, and I’ve given them an answer. It is what it is. I’m not going to sit here and try to bargain for a couple of dollars." When followed up with questions about a possible hometown discount as he was one the longest tenured Jays; he simply added fuel to the fire: “Doesn’t exist. Not in my world. In my eyes, I’ve already given this organization a 5 year hometown discount already.”
Lets think about both of these quotes for a second. Both of them come across as an athlete so incredibly sure of himself that he’s willing to wager he’s going to get paid quite handsomely when free agency arrived for him the first time in November of 2016. Then again, why wouldn’t he wager on himself. He had been one of the best power hitters and a good defensive player for the previous 5 years. The market showed that guys like him got paid…and not just tiny amounts of money either. Problem was the Blue Jays front office knew it. They knew the asking price was far too high. Jose Bautista was the man who just a few months prior had delivered one of the most clutch moments in Canadian sporting history with his bat flip against Texas in the ALCS.
The market for him was going to be strong. It always worked that way. However, something funny happened along the way. Jose got a couple of nagging injuries along the way; his batting average dipped but his ability to get on base was still very strong. His defensive abilities severely dropped off though. The range just wasn’t there and one of the most feared arms from the outfield wasn’t so scary any more. That market….dried up before a lot of sluggers eyes this offseason.
We saw the market get flooded with aging superstars who could hit the ball a ton but couldn’t play defense any more. Was Jose one of the better bats available out there? Of course there was. What happened then? Well; let’s just say he has a way of getting under peoples skins. The Baltimore Orioles said publicly early on that they wound’t bring him in because “Our fans don’t like him and he’s a villain in this city.” How about the Texas Rangers…wait; hard to bring a guy in where everyone on your team hates him. The Yankees were getting younger; Boston filled any holes they already had. The teams that could spend money looked elsewhere than to the guy who had dominated pitching in the American League. It got to the point where news was coming out that Jose Bautista was telling teams that he’ was open to playing multiple positions; and it still didn’t work out.
The calendar flipped to 2017 and there was still no work for Jose. There was one team that was still keeping in touch with him though; Toronto. Yes, the offseason here hasn’t gone exactly as planned. We wanted to get faster, more left handed a better bullpen and more athletic. Guess what? So does pretty much every single team in the majors; except Boston, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland. So like two people who just can’t quit each other; they circled back. News broke early this week that Jose was close to signing. How much? How many years? This is so exciting! All of those feelings flooded social media for a good 24 hours.
Then there were reports that numbers were causing the hangup. Was there a team option or a player option? Then a funny thing got said. Jose is turned down better offers from other teams because he wants to be a Blue Jay. Hmmm…was this all be drummed up by Joses agent Jay Alou? Was he taking queues from EE’s agent? Because if he was this was going very poorly. Then again Mr. Alou was the same agent who had a pitcher that the Jays coveted a couple of springs ago and was apparently close to signing here when he pulled the chute and went to Minnesota of all places! The Twins suck! So I’m sorry if I was very skeptical of this entire deal falling through quickly because we’ve been there before.
Then on Tuesday news broke that it was official. Jose was coming back to the place that really gave him a chance to shine and be a part of something more. Was the contract a good one for him? No…not when the rumour at the start of the year was 5 years and $150 million. He’s going to make $18 million this year. Next year they have a mutual option. So if they Jays like what he does this year they’re going to want him back; but if he does well this year; there’s a pretty good chance he’ll test the free agent waters again looking for a bigger payday. The opposite is true as well. If he stinks up the joint the Jays can walk away and only have to pay him a $500,000 buyout. The third and final year is based on how he plays the first two years of the new deal. If he fills out the stat sheet the third year will be a guaranteed year.
The good news for Jays fans is that Mr. Joey Bats will be walking around with a chip on his shoulder all year the size of Prince Edward Island. Usually when he’s angry he plays better. Kind of like the Hulk. But if he isn’t playing the contract isn’t the end of the world because it basically will work out to a one year deal.
Now, I’ve said a few bad things about Jose in my blogs…you can look back through them if you want...let's just say there's a lot. I’m happy he’s back. Sort of. I’m not a person who gets attached to players; you can’t when you follow a team. Not with free agency and the way trades work out. My two all time favourite athletes Ken Griffey Jr. and Joe Montana didn’t finish their careers with the teams they started them with and they are both legendary. If those guys can’t do it…then no one is safe. Back to my point. We needed help and he was the best available and it wasn’t going to cost the team draft picks or prospects so it was a no brainer. The asking price for players in trades was far too steep for the Jays so that’s how we got to this point.
The biggest problem I have with this deal is that during the press conference to announce that the deal had been complete, Russ Atkins mentioned that Ed Rogers had a meeting with him and mentioned that more money was being made available to sign Jose. First of all; why wasn’t more money made available for Edwin or more desirable free agents like Dexter Fowler and others? Secondly; why now? Did Mr. Rogers cave to public opinion? I mean the Jays fans were very vocal on social media about how unhappy they were Edwin leaving and some were vowing to switch to the other big telecommunications company if Jose wasn’t brought back. It just sucks to think that this extra cash was only made available because the public got upset. Jays fans deserve a winning team. Spending $20 million on a guy who may be (more likely than not) on the downside of his career over a guy like Dexter Fowler who is younger and checks off more boxes that the team was trying to fill is just disappointing. The company should have done better and sooner. Now we’re left wondering if this is just to sway public opinion and keep money flowing into Rogers because losing Jose would be too much for many people who only know him as the guy who did the bat flip.
Is this team better than the team we had last year? I’m not sure. We won’t know until they start playing games. Is this team better with Jose Bautista in the fold as opposed to without him on the team last week? Yes; and that’s all I can hope for going forward. We’re a bit better than we were before.
On the side...pitchers and catchers report in two weeks!