Jose Bautista will be 36 years old once the 2016 season ends. Professional athletes at that time start to think about retiring. Bautista wants to still play. The problem is, he is starting to show signs that his ability to play at a high level is starting to drop.
News about his impending free agency has the talking heads in the media wondering if this is Bautista’s last season as a Blue Jay. Bautista believes he is still The Guy on the team, but he’s not. The Blue Jays now belong to Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki. Bautista has fallen enough on the depth chart that there seems to be no rush by management to re-sign him. But at the same time, the Blue Jays don’t have a suitable replacement in right field. There were talks about bringing Jay Bruce over from Cincinnati to take over the right field position as well as provided a much-needed left-handed bat in the line up. But that did not materialized.
While it may seem enormous for Bautista to ask for $150 Million over 5 years, he is really following Contract Negotiations 101. That is, ask for a lot then work it down to the number you actually want. Bautista will remain a Blue Jay past this season unless he prices himself out of a deal. There are factions starting to develop among Blue Jays Nation, one is with Bautista and the other against him. It’s kind of like the campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination. I am probably the only one who would hope cooler heads prevail in the contract negotiations.
What Bautista did by going public with his contract demands is give Mark Shapiro and Ross Clark a little love tap. Bautista was an Alex Anthopoulos loyalist and his departure may have made Bautista question his future with the Blue Jays. Shapiro and Clark may have to bend over backwards in order to make Bautista earn their trust.
While many believe no team will pay Bautista that kind of money, I have 3 words: New York Yankees. They overpay everyone and don’t seem to mind that they end up holding the bag. Alex Rodriguez is perhaps the best and most recent example.
I hope contract negotiations don’t become a distraction once baseball season starts on April 3rd. But the fate of Bautista as a Blue Jay will rest solely on him. He’ll be hard to replace, but at the same time I won’t be shedding too many tears if he is gone. Choose wisely, Jose.