Lets start with Jose, who came out of the gate swinging off the field to open up camp. A lot has been made of Jose’s comments that “The Jays have had a hometown discount for the past 5 years” and that he will not negotiate a new contract, he has his number and that is that. What a first day of camp.
First things first, we need to dispel the notion that Jose has somehow given the Blue Jays a home town discount as that is simply not accurate. While it is true that Jose has wildly outplayed the 5 year $65 million contract he signed in 2011, that is a reality of baseball. At the time of the contract extension, Jose was coming off of his breakout year, and had exactly one season of elite baseball under his belt. At the time, Alex Anthopoulos was betting that Jose could deliver, and rewarded him with big coin. At the time, Anthopoulos was openly criticized and questioned over the intelligence of the signing. If Jose really felt that he was worth so much more than that contract, he had the opportunity to test free agency, or sign one-year deals to maximize his value. The truth is it was a good risk by Anthopoulos, and Jose received nice security from the deal. Both sides benefited.
Fast-forward to this month, and Jose has made it very clear that if the Blue Jays wish to resign him it is going to be at the free agency rate. Alleged leaked reports have suggested that Jose wants a 5 year $30 million per season offer, although both sides have now suggested that this isn’t the number, and the Jays might be flexible in terms of dollar value and years.
I have a few problems with this. Jose went out of his way to say that he has told the Jays his price, isn’t negotiating, and isn’t focusing on it. While he has painted the Jays management team in a corner, I didn’t appreciate the fact that the very next day I was reading about the potential terms wanted by Bautista, an amount clearly leaked by the club to sway public opinion against the Jays slugger. Isn’t it interesting how the organization that is notoriously tight with its purse strings while secretly raking in cash hand over fist is taking the tactic of trying to make one of its most beloved players look greedy. I understand this is a negotiation (even if Joey suggests it isn’t) and part of the game is leverage, but this was an unnecessary step taking by the team. We have seen teams like the Red Sox continually smear the reputations of players, managers and management as they exit the organization. I was hoping that the Blue Jays brass would show more class in its handling of Jose. If Jose is to leave at the end of the season, lets make this an enjoyable last ride, instead of one spent bitterly trying to cut down a player who has spent 10 years with the organization with great success.
Given the desired terms that were leaked, I do think I should touch on those values. If Jose wants a 5-year deal at $30 million per season, I would be more inclined to let him walk in free agency than sign him to that deal. Signing a player in his mid thirties to that type of contract might work out well for the club, but it carries significant risks with it too. Typically these type of contracts for aging power hitters doesn’t fair particularly well, we just need to look at the examples given to us by Mark Texiera, Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pouljois to see the risks. A contract of that natural is particularly risky for an organization such as the Blue Jays who seem content to pretend to be a small market team that wishes to stay outside the top 10 in payroll for another season.
While a contract somewhere in the range of 4 years at $20-$24 million a year would be a more reasonable place for the Blue Jays to land, I do think someone in free agency will be willing to pay significantly more for Jose’s services. I hope with all my heart one of those teams isn’t in the AL East.
While Jose started training camp with a decidedly more combative approach to free agency, Edwin voiced his love of playing in Toronto, his desire to stay with the club, as well as his willingness to negotiate on a contract while slapping an end of training camp deadline on discussions to ensure he could focus on the season. All great signs! However, things has clearly taken a turn for the worse, as over the weekend Edwin publically stated:
“I’m really disappointed that nothing has happened, but it’s not my decision. They don’t have it in their plans for me to stay here.”
It appears that the Jays suggested a two-year deal to Edwin two weeks ago without a dollar value attached, and asked Edwin’s camp throw out the first number. Subsequent reports have suggested Edwin’s camp is looking in the 4-5 year range.
This is an incredibly disappointing approach by the Jays management. Why would Edwin throw out the first number a week after management has leaked Jose’s desired number to the media? Edwin has nothing to gain from this approach, and is likely to take criticism for what he thinks he is worth, as the number will be larger than most people can fathom. This type of negotiating tactic from Shapiro is the exact type of move you do when you are not negotiating in good faith, and are essentially engaging in discussions strictly for the optics of the entire thing. Given the public statements made by both sides, I’m surprised a contract in the range of 3 or 4 years with a team option around $18 million a year hasn’t been leaked, or agreed upon.
From where I sit, Shapiro and his Cleveland brain trust appear to be running a publicity campaign to make it appear that they have tried to legitimately resign Edwin and Jose, and the two stars requests are just too unbelievable to work with. Shapiro’s approach is right out of the small market team playbook of making the athlete look unreasonable, spoiled and entitled in an effort to soften the blow when the players leave town.
At this point, it almost doesn’t matter what the reasons for the impending departures are (Rogers not offering up payroll, Shapiro wanting to make his mark on the club, thinking the asking price is simply too high, or a failure in negotiating capabilities). While we will likely never know the truth behind the scenes, any reason to let Bautista and Encarnacion walk apart from “it was what was best for the Toronto Blue Jays on the field” is not a good answer to me. Unfortunately I don’t fully believe that this is the way the decision will be made.
As a Jays fan, I am going to make sure I take in as many games as I can from now until the trade deadline as I want to take in as many parrot walks and Bautista outfield assists as I can before they are gone. I suggest as Blue Jays fans we try and enjoy the next four and a half months, because we might be looking at a very different ball club after that point.
Lord help my blood pressure if Edwin becomes a Boston hero for walking the parrot around Fenway park and Jose shaves off his beard to dominate in Yankee Stadium in 2017.