How odd is it that Alex Anthopoulos’ riskiest move over the off-season wasn’t the trade of face-of-the-franchise Vernon Wells or the swapping of reliable veteran hurler Shaun Marcum for an unproven prospect, but the re-signing of a guy who hit 54 home runs last season?
But there is plenty of strangeness when it comes to Jose Bautista and the Jays, who are unsure if the 30-year old’s 2010 season was a fluke or a sign of a guy figuring things out at the major league level. Assuming he completes the signing of what is a reported five-year, $65 million contract, he will be a Jay through the 2015 season, at which time he’ll be nearing his 35th birthday, an age where only the steroid guys of the past 20 years have been known to post big numbers.
The risk for Anthopoulos and co. was two-fold – the risk of paying big money for a one-year wonder, but also the risk of alienating a guy whose 2010 campaign represented a breakout towards superstardom. Avoiding a potentially nasty arbitration hearing with Bautista was a positive, but does a deal that will pay him $13 million a year create issues for a team whose rebuilding seems to run counter to any plans involving a slugger past his 20’s?
If Bautista can even find his stroke often enough for, say, 30-40 homers a year, the deal will look good compared to some exorbitant contracts out there (Carlos Lee, Jayson Werth, Alfonso Soriano and Wells, to name four). If he fades back to his pre-2010 numbers, however, it opens the floodgates for contract comparisons for some of Toronto’s emerging hitters. Travis Snider, for one, could make a strong case for deserving that kind of money if he can develop some consistency while Bautista’s production tails off.
Anthopoulos did well to get rid of one albatross of a contract this winter, but here’s hoping he hasn’t added a new one.
Normally I have a fairly reasonable understanding of this trend towards veteran free agents getting the cold shoulder treatment from teams looking to cut costs and develop their own young talent. Of course Manny Ramirez has to take a discounted rate with the Tampa Bay Rays given his offensive tail-off in Los Angeles and his potentially harmful clubhouse influence. No kidding Jermaine Dye can’t find work, given how most teams can replace his production with younger, cheaper alternatives from AAA.
But the availability of Scott Podsednik to be had on a minor league deal, which the Jays signed him to on Wednesday, caught me off guard. Sure, they guy’s about to turn 35 and has lost much of the speed that made him a stolen base threat in Milwaukee and Chicago back in the day, but he has been a picture of consistency over his past two stints of American League duty.
A poster recently commented on one of my articles – and rightfully so – that the Jays lack players who hit for high average and have too many .230 guys with some power. Well, if Podsednik catches on as a fourth outfielder, he would bring the type of disciplined veteran hitting approach that saw him hit for a .304 average and .353 on-base percentage with the White Sox in 2009 and .310 with an identical .353 OBP over 95 games with the Kansas City Royals last season before a forgettable stint with the L.A. Dodgers.
Podsednik could get significant playing opportunity in support of what is expected to be a weak Jays’ outfield. Snider will get a shot in right field, but has never played more than 82 games in a single season. Meanwhile, CF Rajai Davis and LF Juan Rivera are, at best, stopgap replacements and could be largely interchangeable with Podsednik. If nothing else, the 2005 All-Star will offer some more healthy competition in what is turning into a compelling Spring Training for Blue Jays faithful.
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Written by Ben Fisher