The Perfect Contract Comp For Bautista

Bautista should sign a multi-year deal soon (from daylife.com)

As we are all aware by now, home run king Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays postponed their arbitration case yesterday to work on, as reports have called it, a “multi-year deal.”

Many fans and journalists are up in arms about the developments.  A multi-year deal for a guy who had a “fluke” year last year?  Isn’t this Vernon Wells all over again?

Well, in this man’s opinion, the answer is no.  This is not Vernon v2.0.  Not even close.  We have a competent GM now, a man who has a vision for this team and who is building it his own way.  Ricciardi had a vision too, but then he changed it, and then he changed it again, and again, and again, and the next thing you knew we suddenly had Kevin Millar and Tomo Ohka on the team.

Anthopoulos isn’t trying to appease fans the way J.P. was.  He isn’t trying to make the Jays look better than they are by throwing big money deals at people who don’t deserve them (B.J. Ryan anybody?).  He understands that a winner is built on the field, not at the bank, and he’s already demonstrated as much by dealing away Wells and Marcum.

So why would anybody truly and honestly believe that AA is going to sign Bautista to an ungodly contract? 

Going into this off-season, both parties knew they had severe risks to manage.  If Bautista only signed a one-year deal then fell back to his 15 HR, .235 average ways, his shot at multi-year security would be squashed.  Similarly, if AA caved and inked the slugger to a big money deal, then saw the same regression, his reputation and status with the fans would be squashed.

But come on here.  Both men are sensible.  Both men understand that a middle ground is what MUST happen.  It just makes too much sense. 

The million dollar question, therefore, is this:

What is that middle ground? 

I heard predictions on Twitter yesterday that Adrian Beltre’s deal is a good proxy for Bautista (6 year / $96-million).  Really?  There are so many things wrong with that comparable.  The term is too long and the dollar value is too high.  I think even Bautista himself would say that.  Plus, if he was only asking for $10-million in arbitration, why would he suddenly get a contract worth $16-million?  Not going to happen.

In my opinion, the Bautista case is very similar to the Rickie Weeks saga playing out in Milwaukee.  According to Ken Rosenthal the Brewers and Weeks are making progress on a multi-year deal.  I don’t know any dollar figures, but it would make sense to me that Weeks and Bautista both be rewarded with similar deals. 

Rickie Weeks is the perfect contract comp for Bau.

I know that Weeks came into the league surrounded by hype and therefore may have a bigger name value.  I know that many might prefer to break the bank on Weeks.  But is he actually worth more than Joey?

Let’s see:

Age: Weeks is younger, but not by much.  I was suprised to learn that he will turn 29 this season.  Bautista will turn 31.  Those two years will make a difference, but it’s not as if Rickie Weeks is an up-and-coming superstar.  He’s been around.

Experience: Bautista has played 736 games over seven seasons, an average of 105 per year.  His playing time was mainly diminished by lack of opportunity – somebody was always ahead of him on the depth chart.  Weeks has played in 642 games over seven seasons, an average of 91 per year.  His playing time was diminished due to….

Injuries: Weeks has been chronically hampered by injuries to his thumb and wrist.  Bautista has been able to stay relatively healthy throughout his entire career.

Defense: Rickie has been widely acclaimed as the worst defensive 2B in baseball, so bad that Bill James was quoted as saying he should be moved to a different position.  Weeks lead the league in a stat called “Defensive Misplays”, created by the Fielding Bible.  Bautista isn’t a superhuman defender by any means, but he has proven that he can adequately play two positions, showing versatility.

Breakout Year: After years of underperforming, both men finally broke out last year.  We all know about Bautista’s 54 HR.  But Weeks finally put it all together himself, hitting .269 with a .830 OPS, 29 HR, and 83 RBI.

Judging by the above categories, I would put them on equal grounds.  Rickie Weeks gets an uptick because he is younger, but his injury history might negate that advantage.  As shown by the 2010 season, when both finally get a chance to play everyday, both can be very dangerous.  But the major difference is that Bautista has always been blocked by other players.  He won’t be in 2011.  Weeks has always been blocked by his own health, which can be a problem at anytime.

Bottom line is this:  I think both men should be rewarded with similar contracts.

However, I will almost guarantee that Weeks gets the bigger contract.

I will also guarantee that Bautista produces the better numbers.

Which will work out perfectly for Jays fans.

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