Jose Bautista Rumors
Alex Anthopoulos says he has has 'tinkered' and 'talked' about acquiring a third baseman and won't rule out potential acquisitions. But the Blue Jays GM remains confident in Jose Bautista's ability to play the position all season long. The defending AL home run champ played 48 games at third last year and spent 225 games at the hot corner for the Pirates from 2007-08, so the Blue Jays say they're set at third.
Last year's third baseman, Edwin Encarnacion, will combine with Adam Lind to play first base and DH. The Blue Jays are hopeful that Lind can handle first defensively and they're optimistic about Encarnacion's power potential. Anthopoulos says he thinks Encarnacion has "one more gear in there" and while he hesitated before comparing him to Bautista, the GM says he can see Encarnacion hitting 30 homers or more in 2011.
The Blue Jays are also looking for a bounceback season from Aaron Hill, and they have a decision to make before the season starts. The team can either exercise Hill's 2012-14 options before the coming season begins or they can wait until the offseason, at which point they'll be able to exercise his 2012-13 options or just his 2012 option. Anthopoulos declined to elaborate on the team's plan, but did emphasize that the sides aren't bound to Hill's current deal.
“There’s a lot of flexibility,” Anthopoulos told a crowd of about 500 Blue Jays fans at last night's State of the Franchise event. “We’re not tied into anything. There’s nothing that prevents us from sitting down with Aaron and his agent and saying we want to do a five-year deal, four-year deal, six-year deal.”
Anthopoulos also discussed one multiyear deal that has become the responsibility of another organization. He declined to confirm reports that the Blue Jays are sending $5MM to the Angels as part of the Vernon Wells trade.
The Blue Jays have money to spend now that they've unloaded most or all of Wells' deal and they remain open to making acquisitions. Anthopoulos, a Montreal native and former Expos employee, says he can relate to fans who want a bona fide slugger like Vladimir Guerrero.
"I understand," Anthopoulos said. "He was one of my favorite players growing up and he's someone that I admire."
However, Anthopoulos exaplined that he doesn't want to acquire players who get playing time in place of developing players. For example, the Blue Jays intend to provide their top catching prospect with the chance to show major league pitchers why he won the Pacific Coast League MVP last year.
“We really don’t want to get in the way of J.P. Arencibia because we do believe that he’s an important component of this team” Anthopoulos said. “He has nothing more to prove down [in the minors]. He needs to get an opportunity to play up here and we might have to let him live through some struggles early on.”
If the Blue Jays don't spend on free agents or through trades, they say they'll have more to spend on player development, the amateur draft and international free agency. Amateur spending will not end the Blue Jays' 17-year playoff drought immediately, but it's promising news for fans of a team that has seven of the first 78 selections in the upcoming June draft.
Four American League East teams won at least 85 games last year. Here are some notes on AL East clubs, as they prepare to compete in baseball's most challenging division:
- It's "doubtful" that the Red Sox will sign another pitcher to a Major League contract this offseason, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier. One reported Boston target, Joe Beimel, has already been offered a minor league deal by the Orioles and has three other teams interested.
- The "belief" is that the Blue Jays will go to an arbitration hearing with Jose Bautista, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. There have been rumors that the Jays might avoid a hearing by signing Bautista to a long-term contract, but Bautista's agent told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that the team has yet to offer such a deal to the defending AL home run champion. Check out our Arb Tracker for the latest.
- Many of Bautista's current and former teammates believe Vernon Wells will thrive in L.A, Morosi writes.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman suggested this morning that Derek Jeter will likely shift to the outfield before his current deal expires, but he tells MLB.com's Bryan Hoch that it's "not an issue we have to deal with right now" (Twitter link).
- The Orioles have "limited funds" at this stage, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- Carl Crawford, who recently left one AL East team for another, plans to meet some of his former Rays teammates for dinner this spring, and B.J. Upton jokes that it will be a good chance for Crawford to put his new contract to good use. "I won’t be the first one to pull out my credit card,’’ Upton told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (Twitter link).
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com discussed the challenges of developing healthy pitchers with Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan.
- As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes, the Orioles could sign a utility player to a minor league deal and have him compete for a job with Brendan Harris and Robert Andino.
- WEEI.com's Rob Bradford explains why Manny Ramirez's $2MM base salary isn't necessarily a bad omen for David Ortiz, who will hit free agency after 2011. Big Papi has continued to produce offensively, so Bradford suggests the slugger could be in line for an $8-9MM salary next offseason.
The Red Sox "made multiple offers" for Jose Bautista during the Winter Meetings, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Boston "never got the sense that the Blue Jays were serious about a deal" and Rosenthal reports that several other clubs inquired about Bautista's availability as well.
One would think that the Sox would've had to pay a premium to extract Bautista from their division rivals, but needless to say, that trade would have completely altered the shape of the offseason. Let's play alternate reality for a moment and explore how a Bautista deal would have affected Boston's two biggest winter moves...
- The Adrian Gonzalez trade. Rosenthal notes that the Red Sox were specifically looking for an outfielder (Carlos Beltran and Magglio Ordonez were also options), so a Bautista deal would've kept Kevin Youkilis at third base and left Boston looking for a big bat at first. It's hard to see Theo Epstein, however, cleaning out his farm system for the sake of two trades, when Boston has the finances to simply sign a big-name free agent. It's also possible the Jays would've wanted some of the prospects that the Sox sent to the Padres for Gonzalez. That said, the Red Sox had been interested in Gonzalez for so long that they surely put him at a higher level of importance than acquiring Bautista.
- The Carl Crawford signing. Bautista's presence would've made Carl Crawford's signing unnecessary, unless the Red Sox were prepared to move J.D. Drew or just keep a $14MM player in a bench role. If Crawford doesn't land in Boston, that has a domino effect on several other teams; for instance, if Crawford instead had signed with the Angels, then the club wouldn't have hade a need for Vernon Wells.
There aren't many unsigned arbitration eligible players remaining at this point in the winter, but many of the most high-profile cases remain unresolved. As MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows, 26 arbitration eligible players have yet to agree on their 2011 salaries. Some of them will sign extensions, some will go to hearings and others will avoid arbitration with one-year deals. Here's a primer on ten of the most interesting arbitration eligible players out there:
10. Mike Napoli, Blue Jays - In case arbitration cases weren't complicated enough, the Blue Jays have to defend the Angels' number ($5.3MM) if they go to an arbitration hearing with Napoli, who filed at $6.1MM. The numbers stand, even though the Blue Jays acquired the catcher/first baseman after the Angels exchanged arbitration submissions with him.
9. R.A. Dickey, Mets - Dickey has said he's open to a multiyear deal. We'll soon know whether Mets GM Sandy Alderson wants to extend the knuckleballer or settle on a contract in the $3.35-4.7MM range.
8. Delmon Young, Twins - There's a $1.6MM difference between Young's asking price ($6.25MM) and the Twins' suggested salary ($4.65MM).
7. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles - As I explained yesterday, Guthrie's case could come down to his durability (175 innings in four consecutive seasons) vs. the fact that comparable starters (John Danks, Chad Billingsley, Matt Garza) have been harder to hit.
5. Francisco Liriano, Twins - Liriano made $1.6MM last year and posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 in 191 2/3 innings. His representatives at Legacy Sports will argue that he has earned a raise to $5MM, while Bill Smith and the Twins say $3.6MM is more appropriate.
4. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros - Rodriguez's $10.25MM asking price seems high until you realize how few arbitration eligible pitchers have comparable big league experience (the Astros offered $8MM). Rodriguez is just 15 innings shy of 1,000 for his career and his ERA hasn't surpassed 3.60 in any of the past three seasons. The lefty's 985 innings are 246 more than Erik Bedard had after 2008, the season that set Bedard up for a $7.75MM payday. Few arbitration eligible pitchers earn eight-figure deals, but few have as much big league experience and success as Rodriguez.
3. Jered Weaver, Angels - Weaver requested $8.8MM, while the Angels countered with $7.465MM. Either way, the Scott Boras client will be earning substantially more than he did in 2010, when he made $4.625MM.
1. Josh Hamilton, Rangers - The Rangers could bring up Hamilton’s injury history and past substance abuse, but they would have to do so subtly, says Michael Vlessides, a veteran arbitration consultant. “It’s the fine line between how much do you pick on the guy who’s the MVP. If you do it too much, you can lose a lot of credibility” Vlessides said. Beating MVPs in arbitration hearings isn’t easy, but the Pirates beat Barry Bonds after he won his first MVP in 1990 and again the following offseason.
Prince Fielder is looking to join the $200MM club and the Red Sox considered trading Jonathan Papelbon to the A's or White Sox, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Here are the details and the rest of Heyman's rumors:
- Fielder is looking for at least eight years and $200MM or so when he hits free agency after the season, according to Heyman. Not surprisingly, the Brewers don't like the idea of committing that much to their first baseman.
- The Red Sox talked to the A's and White Sox about Jonathan Papelbon. Boston appeared willing to offer Rafael Soriano a one-year deal and make him their closer. If the sides had agreed to a deal, the Red Sox would have sent Papelbon elsewhere, likely to Oakland or Chicago
- The Rays, who are moving toward a deal with Johnny Damon, have also considered Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Russell Branyan and Nick Johnson.
- The Yankees hope to hear from Andy Pettitte soon, but the lefty is still mulling retirement.
- The Giants appear to be nearing a one-year deal with Andres Torres. As our Arb Tracker shows, Torres filed at $2.6MM and the Giants countered with $1.8MM.
- Heyman says there's "scuttlebutt" that the Rangers could look to lock Josh Hamilton up on a multiyear deal.
- Heyman talked to executives about Joey Votto's new deal and arrived at the conclusion I reached after talking to insiders earlier in the week: the Reds didn't appear to gain much from their deal with the reigning NL MVP.
- Heyman points out that Jose Bautista's representatives will have to convince arbitrators to overlook the string of pedestrian seasons that led up to Bautista's mammoth 2010 campaign. For more on Bautista's case, click here.
Today is the deadline for players and teams to submit arbitration figures. Let's keep track of those figures here, with the latest updates on top. You can track all of the players that avoided arbitration today here.
- MLB.com's Jane Lee tweets that Craig Breslow filed for $1.55MM, but the Athletics countered with $1.15MM.
- Zachary Levine of The Houston Chronicle has some figures for the Astros. Wandy Rodriguez filed for $10.25MM, Hunter Pence for $6.9MM. The team countered with $8MM and $5.15MM, respectively.
- Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star tweets that Billy Butler filed for $4.3MM while the Royals countered with $3.4MM.
- Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Javier Lopez filed for $2.875MM and Andres Torres for $2.6MM (Twitter link). The Giants countered with $2MM and $1.8MM, respectively.
- John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Johnny Cueto filed for $3.9MM, but the Reds countered with $3MM. He adds that Edinson Volquez filed for $2MM, the team $1.3MM.
- Mike DiGiovanna of The Los Angeles Times tweets Jered Weaver filed for $8.8MM, but the Angels countered with $7.365MM. He adds that Mike Napoli filed for $6.1MM, the team for $5.3MM.
- Tom Haudricourt of The Journal Sentinal has the figures for some prominent Brewers (Twitter link). Rickie Weeks filed for $7.2MM, Shaun Marcum for $5MM, and Kameron Loe for $1.65MM. The team countered with $4.85MM, $3MM, and $1.055MM, respectively.
- MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets that James Loney filed for $5.25MM, and the Dodgers for $4.7MM.
- Gurnick adds that Hong-Chih Kuo filed for $3.075MM, the Dodgers countered with $2.55MM (on Twitter).
- Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun has the skinny on two of the Orioles' key players (Twitter link). Luke Scott filed for $6.85MM and Jeremy Guthrie for $6.5MM. The team countered with $5.7MM and $5MM, respectively.
- Joe Christensen of The Star Tribune reports that Delmon Young filed for $6.25MM, the Twins $4.65MM (on Twitter).
- Christensen also reports that Francisco Liriano filed for $5MM and the Twins $3.6MM (on Twitter).
- Christensen adds that Kevin Slowey filed for $3.1MM, the Twins $2.3MM (on Twitter).
- Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that R.A. Dickey filed for $4.7MM, the Mets $3.35MM.
- Andy McCullough of The Star Ledger reports that Angel Pagan filed for $4.2MM, and the Mets for a little over $3.06MM (on Twitter).
- SI.com's Jon Heyman tweets that Josh Hamilton filed for $12MM, the Rangers $8.7MM.
- Anthony Andro of The Star Telgram reports that Darren O'Day filed for $1.4MM and the Rangers for $1.05MM (Twitter links).
- Frank Francisco filed for $4.875MM, the Rangers $3.5MM according to Andro.
- Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press tweets that Jose Bautista filed for $10.5MM, the Blue Jays $7.6MM. Michael Vlessides nailed both figures when he spoke to MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith back in October.
- MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm tweets that Jason Frasor filed for $3.725MM, the Blue Jays $3.25MM.
This piece was first published on MLBTR on October 13th, 2010.
Arbitration Expert Breaks Down Bautista’s Value With MLBTR
A glance at the all-time single season home run leaders tells you all you need to know about Jose Bautista’s 2010 campaign. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Ryan Howard, Luis Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Hack Wilson are the only players who have ever hit more home runs in a season.
Needless to say, Bautista is due for a raise.
Bautista, who heads to arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason, earned $2.4MM last year, and will make far more in 2011. It’s a question of how much more and the answer isn’t easy to determine.
The problem is, few careers resemble Bautista’s. He played for four teams in 2004, played five positions in 2006 and seemed destined for a career as a utility man when the Blue Jays acquired him in 2008. And in 2010? He made the All-Star team and led the major leagues in extra base hits and home runs.
If your head is spinning, imagine how arbitrators - the decision-makers responsible for settling salary disagreements between teams and players - would feel after considering Bautista’s case for a few hours. The Blue Jays have a history of avoiding arbitration, so there seems to be a good chance that they don’t go to a hearing this time, but the potential for one will shape the sides’ discussions.
The Blue Jays can argue that Bautista deserves a limited raise, but they have to be careful, according to one longtime arbitration consultant.
“You lose a lot of credibility with an arbitrator if you have a guy who had a monster year and you start pissing all over him,” says Michael Vlessides, who has faced most leading baseball agents on behalf of various MLB teams over the course of the past two decades.
In other words, Bautista has a strong case, and there’s not much the Blue Jays can do about it. But they can keep his salary in check and they could decide to offer him a multi-year deal, even though Bautista is coming off a remarkable season.
Bautista’s Case: The Historic Season
Bautista’s representatives will likely argue that his season was historic, not just productive. He set the Blue Jays record for home runs in a season (54) and also ranks among the organization’s all-time single season leaders in slugging percentage (2nd with .617), total bases (5th with 351), RBI (5th with 124) and walks (7th with 100).
Bautista just hit more home runs than Albert Pujols or Adam Dunn has ever hit in a season. More home runs than Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez ever hit. Among active players, only Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and David Ortiz have matched Bautista’s 54 home runs, so he has joined some select company.
Under different circumstances, players like Jorge Cantu and Adam LaRoche could have been comparables for Bautista. Both entered their final arbitration season with similar career numbers to the ones Bautista now has, but Cantu and LaRoche weren’t coming off of such impressive seasons.
Last offseason, Cantu received a raise from $3.5MM to $6MM. It’s a substantial bump, but Bautista appears to be headed for more.
“Really that’s not the starting point for Bautista,” Vlessides said. “He had 54 home runs and as esoteric as baseball analysis has become over the years, arbitration remains a fairly simplistic process... We don’t talk about win shares or anything along those lines. So 54 home runs and 124 RBI is pretty sexy and this guy is not going at $6MM.”
LaRoche beat $6MM a couple winters ago. He agreed to a $7.05MM salary (up from $5MM) when he headed into his final arbitration year, but he had come off of a 25 homer-85 RBI season. Bautista’s representatives can argue that $7MM wouldn’t be enough for a player who had just had a historically productive season and hit twice as many homers as LaRoche did.
Bautista’s agents can compare him to a player on a much sexier career path than Cantu or LaRoche. Bautista has not produced as much as Mark Teixeira had at this stage of his career, but the Yankee first baseman could be a point of reference for Bautista.
Teixeira’s salary jumped from $9MM to $12.5MM after the 2007 season, a year in which he had fewer homers, doubles, RBI, runs and walks than Bautista had this past season. Vlessides says Bautista’s representatives can use Tex as a comparable to show that Bautista had a better platform year, even if they admit that their client doesn’t deserve the $12.5MM salary Teixeira obtained.
The Blue Jays can gently point to apparent flaws in Bautista’s game such as strikeouts and his low batting average. But it’s hard to take issue with Bautista’s offense and he has more than his bat going for him. He plays right field and third base, is just 30 years old and has been healthy throughout his career. What’s more, he’s a respected clubhouse presence who helped welcome Yunel Escobar when the Blue Jays acquired him last summer.
Bautista’s side can argue that he has adjusted, learned and evolved into a completely different player from the man who had never hit more than 16 home runs before 2010. It’s a subjective argument and arbitrators won’t necessarily buy it, but it’s not unprecedented for players to find themselves during their late twenties. Arbitration panels sometimes listen when players pull at their heartstrings, Vlessides said.
Even if they just stick to the numbers, Bautista’s representatives can argue that he deserves a big raise based on comparable players and his place in history. Assuming Bautista doesn’t win the MVP award and assuming that his representatives don’t ‘reach’ for an unexpectedly high salary, Vlessides predicts a bid of roughly $10-11MM from Bautista’s agency (which declined to comment for this story).
The Blue Jays’ Case: The Pedestrian Career
The Blue Jays cannot and will not ignore Bautista’s massive 2010 season, but the team can point to his earlier mediocre production and argue that he hasn’t earned an eight-figure salary. Unlike Teixeira, LaRoche and Cantu at comparable points in their careers, Bautista has had just one standout season. That would gives the Blue Jays a certain amount of leverage in a hearing.
“What they would do is when they compare him to other players, they’ll say ‘these guys all had good seasons, but their career contributions dwarf that of Mr. Bautista and the only reason we’re talking about them in the same vein is because we recognize that he had a better platform year,” Vlessides said.
The Blue Jays can point to the raises others received and note that Bautista would earn less than $6MM with a comparable jump. However, Bautista’s representatives can argue that he deserves a bigger boost than others.
“A smart agent will look at the raise and say ‘listen, raise is irrelevant here because Mr. Bautista has been a good citizen for his club,“ Vlessides said.
Last winter, Bautista agreed not to take a raise since he hadn’t earned one. His agency can argue that it would be unfair for the Blue Jays to penalize their star for taking no raise last winter.
Bautista put together a fantastic 2010 season, but it wasn’t perfect, something the Blue Jays may remind a panel if the sides go to arbitration. Bautista, whose violent swing has always led to high strikeout totals, whiffed 116 times in 2010 and he batted just .260, though that figure represents a new career-high.
Keep in mind that GM Alex Anthopoulos has never gone to an arbitration hearing, either as GM or when he worked on arbitration cases under J.P. Ricciardi. The Blue Jays have successfully avoided hearings since 1997, but if they do go to arbitration, the team figures to submit an offer of $7.5-8MM, Vlessides said.
The Bottom Line
Bautista’s ‘true value’ in arbitration (not to be confused with what he’d earn as a free agent) is below $10MM and likely sits around $8-9MM, Vlessides said.
Keeping Bautista Long-Term
A long-term deal for Bautista could take on many different shapes, depending on the team's willingness to offer guaranteed money and Bautista's eagerness to capitalize on his big season. Per team policy, the Blue Jays declined to comment on the team’s interest in reaching a multi-year deal.
The first year of the deal would likely be worth $8MM or so and the following seasons could be worth $14-17MM. Beyond that, there are many variables, but Vlessides can imagine the sides agreeing on a two-year deal worth $25MM including buyouts or vesting options.
That depends, of course, on the Blue Jays’ faith in Bautista to approach or replicate his 2010 level of production and their desire to please the fan base with a feel-good move. Don’t forget that Bautista became a fan favorite in Toronto, where crowds greeted him with ‘MVP’ chants and showered him with standing ovations.
So while Bautista hasn’t set himself up for a Ryan Howard or Alex Rodriguez-esque deal, those 54 homers seem to have ensured him an $8MM payday next season. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be a utility player.
Despite their impressive offseason, the Red Sox will still need some luck at a couple positions, says Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo leads this week's column by discussing the production the Red Sox hope to receive behind the plate and from their left-handed relievers. Here are the rest of the items of interest from the piece:
- Jeremy Bonderman is still looking to land a spot at the back of a rotation, and is drawing "minor interest" from the Rangers and Cardinals. The Yankees, whose interest in Bonderman we heard about earlier this month, have also been in touch with the right-hander's representation.
- Someone "close to" Andy Pettitte told Cafardo that he would be shocked if we've seen the last of the left-hander in the bigs. The longtime Yankee won't start the 2011 season with the club, but hasn't officially announced any plans to retire.
- There has been a "strange silence" surrounding Carl Pavano's situation over the last week, but Cafardo suggests that since Pavano definitely wants to remain a Twin, there's no urgency to act quickly.
- According to Cafardo, Jose Bautista would prefer to play right field rather than third base for the Blue Jays this season. Where Bautista ends up on the field may hinge on whether the Jays add another bat.
Let's check out the latest from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe....
- It's still up in the air whether Jose Bautista will go to arbitration this winter, or whether he'll sign either a one-year or multi-year deal with the Blue Jays. "Right now, there are no talks about a multiyear contract," said Bautista. "But I suppose we may hear something about that in December." MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith took an in-depth look at Bautista's arbitration case earlier this month.
- Cafardo speculates that the Brewers and Jason Varitek could be a good fit, since Milwaukee could use a veteran to mentor Jonathan Lucroy. Of course, the Brewers are probably hoping that the recently-signed Mike Rivera will fill that role.
- There is some doubt about whether Yankees prospect Jesus Montero will be able to handle a major league pitching staff. A "Yankee insider" tells Cafardo that he thinks Montero could be used in a big trade this winter, with Austin Romine waiting in the wings as a potential long-term backstop.
- Cafardo names a few candidates to replace Dave Eiland as the Yankees' pitching coach, noting that Scott Aldred appears to be the front-runner.
- Meanwhile, Curt Young looks like the favorite to become the Red Sox' next pitching coach. The Diamondbacks were "very interested" in Young, but ultimately ended up hiring Charles Nagy instead.
Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote a compelling piece yesterday for MLBTR examining Jose Bautista's upcoming arbitration case. Today at RotoAuthority.com, we attempt to predict Bautista's 2011 home run total through the wisdom of ten top baseball writers, including Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, and Buster Olney. Click here to see their predictions.