You would think making six consecutive All Star teams and hitting nearly 250 home runs since 2010 would count for something. Jose Bautista is finding out this off-season that is no longer the case in the MLB Free Agent landscape.
With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement it put several players who were free agents this season in a bad spot. Right now, players that reject the “qualifying offer” (a one year deal based on the average salary of like players) and leave, the teams that sign them give up a first round draft pick. Those first round draft picks are of more importance these days as teams build from the ground up – and often the free agents coming to term are older, more one dimensional players.
Enter Jose Bautista, who picked a bad time for a poor season. With the new CBA, that draft pick compensation goes away, which is great for the guys who will be free agents next season. It does not however help Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo who are both power hitters but not much of defenders.
At this point we all know Baptista’s story: vagabond hitter who didn’t stick until his age 29 season, also his third with Toronto. Of course he stuck in a big way, clubbing 54 home runs in 2010 and 43 the following year to lead the league both seasons.
Now though, he is 35 and only hit 24 home runs while still striking out over 100 times. Is that really worth $17M? In November he rejected that qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, but that was before the CBA was agreed to and as we have seen before, many players pride alone keeps them from accepting the qualifying offer. His former teammate Edwin Encarnacion just signed a 3 year $65M deal with Cleveland, but that was AFTER he turned down a 4 year $80M deal from Toronto. So yes, he is getting a little more per season but as he is also 34, it is doubtful he will be able to get another multi-year deal when this one is done or get more than what the Blue Jays offer would have paid him over four years.
Most likely Bautista will end finding a landing spot. He can hit a lot of home runs, and home runs can have a big impact on games. Furthermore, there is still something to be said for a veteran presence. Does Bautista fit that old veteran mentor role that guys like Jason Giambi have made some money on the past few years? Not exactly. We know he won’t end up in Texas, that is for sure.
As baseball continues its move toward saber metrics and not over valuing the home run alone, the home run is still the sexy stat that the Jose Bautista’s, Chris Davis and Chris Carter’s of the world are hanging their hat on. It just may not make them as much money as it used to.