One good reason I didn't call this little series 40 in 40 is, life is unpredictable, I got a cold/flu over the weekend and totally lost the ability to focus on a computer screen. It's some better now, but not feeling up to a trip to the gym or anything.
Anyway, there really isn't all that much for me to say that you don't know about Jose Bautista already. Baseball Prospectus predicts he'll hit .264/.382/.516 with 37 home runs this year. I'd take that.
He's incredibly polarizing, people love him or hate him. A couple of years ago, I had people telling me that Munenori Kawasaki was a better team leader than Bautista. I can't even imagine the mental gymnastics required to come up with ideas like that.
I never thought I'd see a player as intense as Bautista, and then we picked up Josh Donaldson. They both wear their desire to win out where everyone can see. They are the type of player that if they are on your team, you love them, and if they are on another team, you hate them.
Jose is quickly moving up the leader boards for Blue Jays batters. He is:
- Position player bWAR: 3rd (36.6). 0.1 behind Carlos Delgado for 2nd and 0.7 behind Tony Fernandez for 1st.
- Offensive WAR: 2nd (35.6). 3.5 behind Carlos Delgado.
- On Base %: 5th (.384). .003 behind Paul Monitor for 4th. .005 behind Fred McGriff for 3rd.
- Slugging %: 2nd (.538). .018 behind Carlos Delgado for 1st.
- On Base Plus Slugging: 2nd (.922). .027 behind Delgado for 1st.
- Games Played: 12th (962). 77 games short of Joe Carter, which would make him 9th.
- Hits: 14th (885). 47 more would put him ahead of Adam Lind for 10th.
- Home Runs: 2nd (243): He needs 94 to pass Delgado (maybe not this season).
- RBI: 6th (632)
- Walks 2nd (632): 195 behind Delgado.
What would you offer Bautista for an extension?
That's a tough question for me. We are coming into his age 35 season. So any extension would cover his age 36 season and up.
Now in OOTP Baseball, I always trade players before their age 34 season. Players, after that age, tend to decline quickly (especially in the game). And it is hard to trade them after that age (in the game), because the other GM's won't take 'aging, overpaid players'. When I give players extensions, I try not to go past the age 34 season. I also try to trade guys before they get to 5 and 10 status
Of course, the game isn't real life. In the game I don't get emotional attachments to players. It is much easier to follow rules of 'no players older than 34' when you don't grow to love watching a player. And, of course, in real life players don't age as linearly has they do in computer games. Add in that, in the game, fans of my team don't burn me in effigy if I don't sign their favorite player. The game does say 'fans are upset you traded 'player x', fan interest drops', but I figure that, if the team wins, fan interest will recover.
In real life? I think I'd offer Jose an extension.
What I'd offer is 3 years at $25 million a year, with a team option for a 4th year at the same amount. I'd hope that would get it done, or at least it would be close enough that we could have a conversation. I think there is a value in him being the face of the organization, being a leader on the field and being a fan favorite.
Ken Rosenthal wrote about Arden Zwelling making the case for signing Bautista at Pitch Talks. In part he said:
Maybe it was Zwelling's heartfelt delivery. Maybe it was the frustration that some Jays fans harbor toward the team's aloof ownership, Rogers Communications. But by the time Zwelling finished -- explaining that if ever there was a player the Blue Jays should pay, it's Bautista -- the place was rocking as if we were back in Rogers Centre after Bautista's legendary home run and bat flip in Game 5 of the Division Series.
It is dangerous to start polling fans on player decisions. But in this case, I think Zwelling has a point.
When should we start transitioning Bautista out of right field?
The quick answer is 'if we don't sign him to an extension, we don't worry about transitioning him away from right field. If this is his last season as a Blue Jay, play him in right everyday and leave it to his next team to figure out where he should play in his late 30s.
If we do sign him to an extension, well, Bautista was second worst in baseball in UZR/150 among qualifying right fielders (his -12.5/150, was only better than Matt Kemp's -18.0). Part of that had to do with Bautista's arm troubles, which cost us the fun of watching him throw out base runners for a good part of the season. In 2014 he had a 3.0 UZR/150. I'm expecting he doesn't look as bad in right this year.
But yes, if he signs an extension, I'd be talking to him about starting the move to first base this year. I think I'd talk to him this spring about playing first base 1 day a week. I say Wednesdays you are going to be our first baseman. I'd say I want to rest his legs some. I'd tell him i'd want him to take more of a leadership role, that at first base, he'd be closer to the action, that he'd in on pitcher conferences at the plate. I'd make him team captain if that would help. Not that we are exactly hurting for leadership in the infield, Donaldson and Tulowitzki are already there, but I'd try to appeal to his sense that he could be a bigger leader if he was closer to the action.
I'd also suggest that this move would extend his career. "How many 38 year old right fielders do you see these days?". Ok, Carlo Beltran, be he's a Yankee, they are basically running an old baseball player's home there. And Torii Hunter.
In 2017, I'd try to get him playing as much first base as right field, and then, after that, I'd hope he would be a full time first baseman.
Of course, that all depends on the team having someone else that could play right. Dalton Pompey would have to pan out or maybe Anthony Alford could make the team by 2017. But, that would be my plan. I know I'd have to get Jose to buy in. I know I'd have to work with him to see the value in it for him and for the team.