Jose Bautista Rumors


AL East Links: Gonzalez, Bautista, Shealy, Orioles

The Yankees already added a reliever today. Here are some notes on what their division rivals are up to...

  • Adrian Gonzalez says he hasn't imposed a deadline for extension negotiations with the Red Sox, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Gonzalez, who worked out at Red Sox camp today, did not seem worried about talks with Boston, according to Cafardo.
  • The Blue Jays' arbitration hearing with Jose Bautista will take place Monday, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • The Jays signed Ryan Shealy to a minor league deal, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America (on Twitter). The 31-year-old appeared in five games for the Red Sox last year after spending the 2009 season in the minors. Shealy posted a .231/.345/.472 line at Triple-A for the Red Sox and Rays last year.
  • Speaking of Boston, Alex Speier of WEEI.com introduces us to the team's many bullpen candidates. They have lots of left-handers to choose from. Felix Doubront, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Hideki Okajima and Dennys Reyes will provide manager Terry Francona with plenty of options.
  • The Orioles are actively discussing deals with Luke Scott and Jeremy Guthrie, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. The O’s don’t appear to be on the verge of an agreement with either arbitration eligible player. Scott’s hearing is next Monday and Guthrie’s hearing will take place Wednesday. Keep track of all the remaining arbitration hearings with our Arb Tracker.



Quick Hits: Millwood, Bautista, Hawkins

Here are some items of note for Feb. 3, 2011, the day on which former AL Rookie of the Year and MVP Fred Lynn turned 59.

  • The Indians are interested in free-agent righty Kevin Millwood, tweets Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, but not at the current asking price of one year, $4-5MM. Cleveland is among the handful of potential Millwood suitors enumerated by Ben Nicholson-Smith earlier on Thursday. The Yankees are part of the group, too, and it stands to reason that Andy Pettitte's retirement might strengthen their interest, writes Chris Bahr of the Sporting News.
  • The Red Sox's interest in trading for Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is telling because it indicates there is a belief among baseball executives and talent evaluators that Bautista's monstrous 54-homer campaign in 2010 was not a fluke, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. The Red Sox eventually got their man when they signed free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford, so Bautista-to-Boston is obviously off, notes Morosi, but it bodes well for Bautista in his final season before hitting free agency.
  • Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins said that his surgically repaired shoulder feels good and that he'll compete for a spot in Milwaukee's bullpen, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Hawkins signed a two-year, $7.5MM deal with Milwaukee prior to last season but pitched in just 18 games before being lost to an injured labrum and rotator cuff. Hawkins has a guaranteed contract, so the Brewers will surely want him to be at full strength and pitching well, but it bears watching how they handle him if he struggles with injury and/or ineffectiveness.



Anthopoulos Talks Hill, Encarnacion, Wells, Arencibia

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 deal that was announced [Wells straight up for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera] was the deal that was agreed to," he said.

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.



AL East Links: Red Sox, Bautista, Wells, Jeter

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.



Red Sox Pursued Jose Bautista Trade

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.



Ten Arbitration Cases To Watch

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.

6. Rickie Weeks, Brewers - The Brewers are no longer discussing a multiyear deal with Weeks, who is asking for $7.2MM. The Brewers countered with $4.85MM.

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.

2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays - I wrote last fall that Bautista's case comes down to his historic 2010 season vs. the forgettable campaigns he strung together before last year. Click here to read more.

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.



Heyman On Fielder, Papelbon, Rays, Giants

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.



Arbitration Figures: Tuesday

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.



Jose Bautista's Arbitration Case

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.



Cafardo's Latest: Bonderman, Pettitte, Pavano, Bautista

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.









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