Ferguson: Hamilton deal makes Bautista a bargain to Jays

Scott Ferguson
12/14/2012 11:02:25 AM
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I can remember Alex Anthopoulos saying that he had trouble sleeping at the time he signed Jose Bautista to his current contract. Alex loved Jose as a player, but was concerned about giving so much long-term money to a player who had burst into stardom in his late 20's in such an unprecedented fashion.

Now, that five-year deal, plus an option year, that will pay Jose $14 million over each of the next three seasons looks like an incredible bargain.

Consider the deal Josh Hamilton is getting from the Angels. Though L.A. hasn't confirmed all the details yet, Hamilton is committed for five years and $125 million. That's an average of $25 million per season.

If I was building a team, I'd be hard pressed to choose between the two. But I think I would lean towards Bautista. He is a leader who plays the game the right way. He also is also Gold Glove-worthy in right field, and is just about as good at third base, whenever he's been pressed into duty there. Yes, he has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons and he did slump badly at the beginning of 2012. Still, he's one of the power hitting stars in this game.

Hamilton is one of the most dynamic players in the game. But he too is not without faults. He doesn't have the defensive versatility of Bautista and has been prone to wild swings, from incredible productivity to baffling slumps. To his credit he has fought the good fight against his personal demons and already has an MVP award in his trophy case.

There are no glaring differences in their career stats, outside of batting average where Hamilton is a .304 hitter and Bautista .253. Their on-base percentages are almost identical at .363 for Hamilton and .362 for Bautista. Hamilton's slugging percentage and OPS are higher but not by an extraordinary amount. Bautista is 32 years old, while Hamilton will be 32 in May.

I'm not suggesting the Blue Jays tear up Bautista's contract and give him one to match Hamilton's, especially not this year when Jose is coming off a significant wrist injury. That wouldn't make any sense, at least in the short term. But if Jose bounces back and has a banner year, a renegotiation could be in order for 2014 and beyond. It's not like the Blue Jays haven't done it before.

In 1985, the Jays signed Dave Stieb to a 10-year contract that was due to pay him $2.1 million in the final year of 1995. In time it became clear that Stieb, the second-winningest pitcher in the 80's next to Jack Morris, was significantly underpaid compared to his peers. The Blue Jays realized this and did boost his stipend for the final three years of the deal. So it can be done and it should be done, if Bautista has a big year in 2013 and the Blue Jays make it back to the post-season.

The Angels are a better team for having Josh Hamilton, and they have hurt their biggest rivals - the Rangers - by spiriting him away. However this signing alone won't push the Angels over the top. They still have pitching questions. Since the end of the season they've lost Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. The Halos have replaced that trio, with Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton.

So you can't argue that their rotation is any better than the one that left them in third place last season. Not only that, their big bullpen pick-up Ryan "Mad Dog" Madson is coming off Tommy John surgery. At this point it would be ridiculous to just hand the AL West title to the Angels.

The biggest question of the off-season remains: What, if any, significant moves are the Yankees going to make?

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