I’ve been a fan of Alex Anthopoulos’ doings in Toronto, but this one confuses me a bit. Bautista had a fantastic season and would have qualified for free agency at season’s end. Instead, the Jays essentially replace Vernon Wells’ dollars with a lone commitment and an equally risky one at that. There are no early opt-out or buyout opportunities involved here. Even if you just look at when Bautista got playing time and ignore that he couldn’t break into the lineup while playing for some extraordinarily poor teams, here’s what you’ll find:
2006 (469): .261/.326/.755
2007 (614): .269/.331/.753
2008 (424): .256/.311/.718
2009 (404): .272/.339/.757
2010 (683): .331/.422/.995
Bautista is an above average offensive player most years, but not by much. He appears to be a negative on defense, although his flexibility is a nice asset, and this is his 30-year-old season –leaving little doubt he will decline over the length of the deal. A replication of 2010 is highly unlikely, so being an above average player for the duration is the perfect world outcome. More likely? He earns some surplus on the front side and the Jays are ready to get rid of the deal by 2015.
My problem is the length. Only the Jays know how much they can afford on players, and while it’s not ideal to aimlessly overpay any decent player, a two- or three-year deal provides the best of both worlds, allowing the Jays to find out whether Bautista has any magic left in the bat while also providing security in case he returns to mediocrity. Perhaps the Jays have reason to believe he’d be worth even more after this season, but they certainly can’t feel that way with a high degree of confidence.
Either McGee has one or two options remaining –depending on whether the Rays received a fourth option on him— limitng the amount of time he has to develop into a starter. The team’s logjam of starters in the upper minors also allows them to boot maximum reward in favor of minimum risk. Maybe McGee will still get hurt in a relief role with a violent delivery, but throwing fewer pitches limits the probability, if nothing else.
Ostensibly, McGee will start the season in the big league bullpen. Limiting service time on pitchers is a different beast than doing so to positional players. Their aging curves are different and the rate of attrition is higher. I suppose the Rays could avoid Super Two status with McGee relatively easily, but I doubt they wait until gaining an extra year of control before throwing him into the fire. With J.P. Howell supposedly looking at an early May return and McGee sliding into a middle relief or set-up role of his own, the bullpen suddenly looks better in the end-game stages, while the team has amassed enough middle relief options that at least one of them has to work out. What’s funny is how the pen will seemingly make less combined than Rafael Soriano did by his lonesome last season.