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What A Bargain That Jose Bautista Deal Is

I’ve talked it about on Twitter, on here, on Pinstripe Alley, pretty much everywhere I have a mouthpiece. Jose Bautista is a steal this offseason. It’s pretty weird to say that given that about a year ago we thought we’d be heading into the offseason as Bautista the most coveted free agent not named Yoenis Cespedes, and boy were we wrong. By the middle of the offseason it became abundantly clear that teams just were not interested in dealing more than a couple of years for an aging slugger, especially with a draft pick attached.

That’s a mistake, in my view. Draft picks are notoriously overrated, and the value of the pick varies depending on the team. If you’re a franchise that has failed to produce any pick of substance out of the first round in eons (cough cough, Yankees), then that’s fine, honestly. You have to know where your strengths lie. So in that case you need to leverage that lesser value of the draft pick against the rest of the league; in that way, you have a better incentive to acquire qualified free agents than teams who have done better with their first round selections.

So, on Bautista’s actual deal. He was signed by his hometown team in the Toronto Blue Jays for a one-year, $18 million deal with two options –a $17 million mutual option for 2018 and a $20 million vesting option for 2019 that vests if he plays at least 300 games in 2017-2018. There are also some attendance bonuses, which are really just window dressing. We know that if Bautista is playing well, attendance will go up, and the salary is secondary.

This, at its face, is an excellent deal for the Jays. First and foremost they retain their franchise player, likely one of the most important figures in franchise history at that. Secondly, they retain their draft pick because they’re just re-signing a player, unlike any other team. And thirdly, and most importantly, he’s incredibly cheap and low-risk. I only have good things to say from here on out.

Let’s say, for example, that Bautista hits his Steamer projections for 2017. That means he’d be worth about three wins, and would be a 130 wRC+ hitter over about 125 games or so. That’s great. Three wins are really expensive on the free agent market; in fact, there were only a handful of players available who are even projected to be above that in 2017. To get that for just $18 million, and with friendly team options in place, there’s no way to lose. Even if he sucks, you walk away. Simple as that. I guess the one scenario this doesn’t work out is if Bautista has a career year; in that case he’d probably want to opt out and look for more money. But in that sweet spot of about two to four wins, it’s hard to see him to do that.

The biggest aspect of all of this, I think, is the emotional value of having Bautista back in Toronto. He holds a sentimental value that I can’t even grasp, because I don’t really know how it feels to have a city so devoid of baseball fervor, and then suddenly receiving a shot of pure adrenaline and joy. That’s priceless, to be honest. There are people in Toronto who will be Blue Jays fans until the day they die because of Bautista’s home run and bat flip against the Rangers.

To hold on to that, to say that the franchise is going to make a commitment in a way many didn’t expect, that’s special, and it means the Jays are here to stay for the near future.

I wrote way back in November that this would be an important offseason for the Jays in reaffirming that they could contend in the AL East for an extensive period of time, and I think this confirms it. I think failing to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion, but still re-signing Bautista, is a partial success, and an excellent year from him would very much compensate for the loss in an immediate sense.

I can’t say where this franchise is headed. If the youngsters like Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna, and Dalton Pompey really do pan out, then the future is bright. But the contention window could be closing, and it’s important to take advantage if that’s the case. Regardless, it’s nice to see Bautista helping to steer the ship, at least for a little while longer.

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Matt Provenzano is a recent graduate of Cornell University, where he studied Information Science and Law and Society. He has been a Staff Writer at SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley since 2013, and a baseball fan since 2002.

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