Time to Extend Bautista
Well, I'm convinced. 40 home runs. Shaking off an "in-your-ear" fastball - intentional or not - and clubbing a second homer to drive a stake in the heart of your most hated division rival.
Jose Bautista now stands an excellent chance of becoming the first Blue Jay to hit 50 home runs. He is inspiring excitement among fans that hasn't been seen in these parts since Carlos Delgado departed. Bautista is a plus defender at two positions, and actually boasts the arm that Alex Rios was always thought to possess. He also seems to be a good mentor figure for the previously troubled Yunel Escobar.
For all of these reasons, it's time to lock him up for a few seasons more.
It's not generally wise to open the vault and hand a long-term extension to a 29-year-old having a career year. But we're not talking a Vernon Wells or Todd Helton $120 million/10-year millstone here - we're talking "more money than Jose Bautista ever expected to see in his baseball career" - say a 3-year deal worth $24-27 million that buys his Age 30-32 seasons. Such a deal is actually a pretty good hedge against risk, because if Bautista happens to go out and do this AGAIN in 2011, then some GM somewhere will go off a cliff and give him Gary Matthews Jr. money.
There is reason for optimism that Bautista's improvement is sustainable. He's not having a career year because everything is falling in and he's hitting 80 points over his head, but because better than one of every 3 hits is clearing the outfield fence.
Bautista has lived his baseball life as the ultimate tweener - without a true position, job or organization. He kicked around such distinguished outfits as Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay (back when they were the Devil Rays) - MLB's version of the Three Stooges, complete with Shemp.
He's always had some power - 15 homers in 3 straight seasons - and the discipline to take a walk - better than 1 for every 10 PAs. Now with a regular role, this is exactly what you would expect a Jose Bautista career year to look like, with big spikes in the two categories that represent his two best skills.
At age 29, is this a one-off fluke?
For historical comparisons, you might try Jim Hickman, outfielder in the late 60s and early 70s who was a league average or slightly below regular for several seasons before losing his mind at age 33 and hitting .315 with 33 home runs and setting career highs in everything. Though he dropped off significantly the following year, Hickman was still an above average hitter through his Age 35 season. Brady Anderson didn't have his first good season until he was 28, and he enjoyed his REALLY big season at 32 - so it's not a foregone conclusion that Bautista will turn into a pumpkin next season.
Even if Bautista's homers decline by 40% in 2011, you're still left with a solid defender who'll hit 25-30 home runs and get on base. That's still a good deal.
Along with a new contract, it's also time that Toronto's newest matinee idol had a fitting nickname.
Hmmm. Let's see - where seen that steely demeanour and killer instinct before? I'm thinking early Verhoeven...
Ah ha! So how about...
If that moniker doesn't strike your fancy, we can combine Bautista's outstanding throwing arm with the heritage of his newly adopted team:
Got something better? We'd love to hear it.
Labels: Jose Bautista, nickname