Monday, January 24, 2011

A Closer Look at the Risks Involved With a Jose Bautista Extension

Yes, Jose Bautista deserves an extension. Now.
I was originally going to write up an article about what I would like to see AA accomplish over the remainder of the offseason, and that will still come, but after analyzing Jose Bautista's extension or arbitration/2011 FA dilemma, I decided that this is undoubtedly worth its own post.

Alex Anthopolous stated pretty clearly in his latest Fan 590 interview that he'd be perfectly happy to go to arbitration with Jose Bautista. But I believe that extension time is now, and with the newfound cash following the Vernon Wells trade (although I don't think at all that it needs to be spent at once), the opportunity has presented itself for the Blue Jays to follow through on extending the MLB home run leader. 

I propose a 4 year, $45MM contract.

Brady Anderson has easily been the most referenced player in connection with Jose Bautista. Yet Brady wasn't exactly terrible following his 50 homer season, regardless of public opinion and the lack of any eye-popping stats in following seasons. Sure, he never hit for plus-plus power after 1996, but just look at the OPS's of the four seasons after his big year: .862, .776, .881, .796. Not too bad, eh? And certainly worth $10 million in today's crazy baseball economy. 

Fangraphs estimates 1 WAR to be worth between 4 and 5 million dollars (we'll use 4.5), and combining Anderson's WAR from the four seasons following 1996 (total of 11.5), he's worth $51.75MM over that four year stretch. Still think giving Jose Bautista a shiny new contract is too risky? Anderson is seen as the sterling example of what terrible thing could happen to Jose Bautista in 2011, a frightening historical precedent that can't be ignored. But clearly, even if Bautista does fall off an Anderson-like cliff after signing my proposed 4/45 deal, it would still be worth it.

On the opposite side of the spectrum of surprising 50 homer hitters is Cecil Fielder, who after toiling away in Toronto, got his chance with Detroit in 1990 to be an everyday hitter, and boy did he claim it, with 51 home runs and a .277/.377/.592 line.

Yes, he's nowhere near the same type of player as Bautista and the miracle season was under very different circumstances, but the main point remains the same: it was surprising, and people wondered if it was all a mirage. It wasn't, and although never again did Fielder OPS .900 in a season or even reach 45 bombs, he did average 33.6 over the next five seasons. These five seasons were worth 14 WAR according to Fangraphs, and therefore a value of $63MM. 

Now, this brings up a new argument: home runs aren't all what they're made out to be, as Anderson almost reaches Fielder's value plateau despite never again hitting 25 and a big shift in the court of public opinion.

But my point still stands: Even in the worst-case scenario that fans are predicting for Bautista in 2011, he's still worth a big contract, as he has a long way to fall. Please, pay Jose Bautista.

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