Yesterday the Toronto Blue Jays and slugger Jose Bautista finally inked the multimillion-dollar deal they’d be flirting with all week, laying the foundation for a long-term relationship. Given the year Bautista had last season—he earned a $2.4-million pittance while leading the league with 54 homers and receiving the Hank Aaron Award—everybody knew he was going to paid, big time. It was just a question of how much and for how long. And now we know: Bautista will receive a five-year, $64-million contract, plus a $14-million club option for 2016.
By making such a hefty, long-term commitment, however, the Jays certainly gambled. Bautista could be the franchise’s offensive cornerstone for years to come, and by all accounts he’s an easygoing and much-loved leader in the clubhouse. But he also could just as easily return to the relative obscurity from whence he came. The Star’s Richard Griffin explains how betting on Bautista is a risky play:
Is Bautista a one-year wonder? We won’t know until the end of this season; but if it turns out that way, it was one wonderful year blessed by perfect timing. Most players have their breakout performance during their first four seasons in the majors. In those cases, the team has two or three years where they can control his contract and decide whether they want to commit long term.
The Jays did not have that luxury with Bautista, a free agent after 2011. A decision had to be made based on his 54 homers and .995 OPS in 2010. If they waited and he repeated, his price would have skyrocketed. Their window of exclusivity was important in keeping the price down. They took it. It was rolling the dice.
But the deal goes beyond just Bautista. The slugger is loved not only by his teammates, but by the fans. Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is throwing a bone to both the players in the clubhouse and baseball lovers in the seats. If Bautista’s play doesn’t live up to his new-found riches, the gamble may turn out to have been the wrong move. Given the optics Anthopoulos is facing today, though, it totally looks like the right one.