Saturday evening, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal sent Major League Baseball fans and Cleveland Twitter into a frenzy. Rosenthal reported to the masses that the Indians are in the market for Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista. The report seems to have Cleveland split in their thinking of Bautista. Some fans drool at the possibility of having another potential 40-home run guy, and others, myself included, cannot even begin to fathom how potentially disastrous a deal with Bautista could end up.
The Cleveland Indians are doing things very different than us fans have become accustomed to. We are not used to management opening the check book and bringing in All-Stars. We are used to getting excited because Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn want to come here; not guys who club 40-plus like Edward Encarnacion and Bautista. However, the reason the Indians are still in on Bautista isn’t because they’re all in on 2017 and are willing to pay anyone anything, it’s because there is zero market for the erstwhile Blue Jays slugger. And the reason there is zero market for Bautista is because he has next to no value for his asking price. The only other team interested in Bautista is the Jays, who offered him a one year deal for more than $17 million. He turned it down.
Bautista is going to be playing in his age-36 season. A guy who is 36-years old and looking for over $20 million coming off his worst season in eight years is not good. A guy who is 36-years old and looking for over $20 million coming off his worst season in eight years in which he missed 46 games due to injury is even worse.
Bautista slashed .234/.366/.452 last season with 22 home runs in his 116 games played. Twenty-two home runs in 116 games put Bautista at a 30-home run pace for a 162 game season, which would have been his lowest 162 pace since 2009. Even just a year ago, 30 home runs would have been a solid number. But with home run numbers spiking up, as the MLB as a whole hit over 700 more in 2016 than 2015, 30 home runs isn’t nearly as valuable. Thirty-eight other players hit 30 or more home runs in 2016, something just 13 players did in 2015.
|Bautista 162 pace||54.3||46.8||47.5||38.4||36.5||42.4||30.7|
Bautista Home runs/MLB Total = Value (rounded up two decimal points to make it easy on the eyes)
For Bautista to have matched his 2010 value in home runs, he would have had to hit 66 this past season. While home runs are rising league wide, Bautista isn’t keeping up with the trend. His home run value has dropped in five of the past six seasons, and at 36 years old coming off an injury, I don’t think it’s going to get any better. Father Time is undefeated, and it appears Bautista is facing off with him.
Statistically, Bautista dropped across the whole board in 2016.
The last two seasons have been two of Bautista’s worst. While they are not horrible numbers by any means, they don’t belong to a guy who entered free agency looking for $20 million per year. Bautista still gets on base at a pretty good clip, and it’s encouraging that he hit the ball harder this year than any year of his career. However, while he did hit the ball harder than he ever has, he also hit it softer than he has in five years, and struck out more often than any season since 2009. Because he’s older, injured, striking out more, and hitting it soft more, I’m willing to guess that his Hard-hit rate was a fluke, and probably will regress back to the mid-low 30’s this season.
Bautista’s injuries and his age are my two biggest concerns. Since 2010, position players who have gone on the disabled list one season, 38 percent of them have returned to the DL the next season. For players over 30 years old, like Bautista, that number goes up to 41 percent. How bad do you really want a diminishing talent, who has a 40 percent chance of missing significant time? Even at a 162-game pace, Bautista’s WAR would have been under 2.0. That wouldn’t even have been in the top 200 of all Major League Baseball.
Beyond statistics, there’s another reason I don’t want Bautista in an Indians uniform: I can’t stand him. I hear people say he’s one of those guys that you hate, unless he’s on your team, then you love him, but I can’t see myself enjoying this guy in Cleveland. I won’t lie, that bat flip against the Rangers two years ago was awesome. I was all about that. But starting fights, getting punched in the face, and making excuses about “circumstances” and talking about Ryan Merrit “shaking in his boots” are all plenty for me to not like him. And don’t forget the time he followed everyone on Twitter because he so desperately wanted to be MLB Network’s “Face of the MLB;” a contest that was taken as such a joke by fans that Eric Sogard was a finalist. Maybe I talked on the phone with my dad too long last night, or maybe I’m just getting older, but I really cannot stand the guy’s attitude. If you are going to be as cocky as Bautista, I think you should have to hit above .234 with 22 home runs, but that’s just me. Now if Bautista came to Cleveland and had his cocky attitude while hitting 40-plus? Well then I’m all in.
I believe in paying players for what they are going to do, not for what they have done. It is said that once a player showcases a skill, he holds that skill forever, and at anytime could re-showcase it. But at 36 years old and an injury history, I’m not sure how much skill Bautista still possesses.
The Indians’ front office is smart, though. And I’m more than sure they’re aware of all of this. I don’t see them spending any significant money on Bautista. There isn’t a market for Bautista at all outside of Toronto, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay, so the Indians should have some leverage in any negotiations.
If Bautista lowers his asking price by a lot, and the Indians take a chance on a guy who gets on base a lot and potentially hits for a bunch of power, then that is a huge steal for Cleveland. But as of this morning, it is reported that Bautista was offered two years worth $35 million to $40 million, a contract that is way outside Bautista’s worth. You could make an argument that the Indians should go all in on Bautista and give him that, and hope he returns close to his old self, but I don’t see that happening. If management is willing to spend $40 million, I’d rather see them do it elsewhere.
The Indians are weak defensively in center field, and as we saw last year, you can never have too much pitching. I would much rather see them put money into production than a big name. Pay for what you will get, not what someone else got.
With how Bautista conducts himself, his outrageous asking price, and his diminishing skill set, like the great Randy Jackson said, “yeah, it’s gonna be a no for me, dawg.”