Blue Jays can't strike deals with Bautista, Frasor
Club reaches agreements with seven other arb-eligible players
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' streak of 13 consecutive years without taking a player to arbitration is at risk of coming to an end.
Toronto was unable to come to terms with slugger Jose Bautista and right-hander Jason Frasor prior to Tuesday's 1 p.m. ET deadline for exchanging salary figures. The club did reach agreements, though, with its other seven players who were eligible for arbitration.
Outfielder Rajai Davis received a two-year contract worth $5.25 million, while right-hander Brandon Morrow ($2.3 million), shortstop Yunel Escobar ($2.9 million), as well as righties Casey Janssen ($1.095 million), Shawn Camp ($2.25 million), Jesse Litsch ($830,000) and Carlos Villanueva ($1.415 million) each secured one-year deals.
The Blue Jays are permitted to continue negotiating with Bautista and Frasor until an arbitration hearing takes place from Feb. 1-21. But general manager Alex Anthopoulos said he will only discuss multiyear contracts from this point on.
"Our policy is ... if we don't have deals done by the 1 p.m. deadline, we would not negotiate a one-year deal," Anthopoulos said Tuesday. "As a general policy, if multiyear deals were to ever come about, we certainly could continue to negotiate those. But those are obviously things that we keep private, keep quiet and keep in house."
Toronto hasn't taken anyone to a hearing since right-hander Bill Risley in 1997. This year, the Blue Jays entered the offseason with nine players who were eligible for arbitration -- more than any other team in the Major Leagues.
Bautista, who is entering his final year of arbitration, was the most prominent player on the list. The 30-year-old Dominican native is coming off a historic season in which he recorded a franchise-record 54 home runs. He also ranked third in the American League in RBIs (124), slugging percentage (.633) and OPS (.995).
The two sides do not appear to be close on an agreement. Bautista is asking for $10.5 million in arbitration, while the Blue Jays have countered with $7.6 million. Either way, Bautista will get a substantial raise on the $2.4 million he earned in 2010, but it remains to be seen what he will be rewarded by an arbitrator if the process gets that far.
An independant arbitrator must pick one salary figure or the other -- it's not an option to find a middle ground between the two asking prices. That could prove to be an interesting hearing for a player who is coming off a career season but had never hit more than 16 home runs prior to 2010.
Regardless of what happens, Anthopoulos said he isn't worried about there being hard feelings between the player and the club. Anthopoulos has remained in regular contact with Bautista's agent, and the two sides know where each other stands.
"We don't play hardball with anybody," Anthopoulos said. "We're very clear with the agents and the players. We have open lines of communication and dialogue. Our No. 1 goal in all negotiations is to get a deal done, at all times. ... The reality of it is you don't always come to an agreement."
The Blue Jays are not as far apart in negotiations with Frasor. The 33-year-old is asking for $3.725 million in arbitration, while Toronto countered with $3.25 million.
Frasor went 3-4 with a 3.68 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 63 2/3 innings in 2010. He became a Type A free agent at the end of the season, but he opted for arbitration after he was unable to find an acceptable multiyear contract on the open market. He is expected to compete with right-handers Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel and Camp for late-inning roles in Toronto's bullpen.
Toronto did come to terms on a multiyear contract with Davis. The 30-year-old will earn $2.5 million in 2011, $2.75 million in '12 and has the potential to make $3.5 million in '13 through an option.
Davis, who was acquired in an offseason trade, hit .284 with five home runs and 52 RBIs last season in Oakland. He has recorded 91 stolen bases over the past two seasons and is expected to bring an element of speed to the Blue Jays' lineup that the club hasn't had since the days of outfielder Shannon Stewart.
Davis currently doesn't have a guaranteed spot in the Jays' everyday lineup. He will be competing for a starting job, but it's possible he could be relegated to the role of fourth outfielder. Even though his status is up in the air, Anthopoulos said he likes the flexibility Davis brings to the club.
"He brings us tremendous protection because of his ability to play all three outfield spots," Anthopoulos said.
"Plus [he brings the] element of speed, which I find is getting increasingly more difficult to find in the free-agent market. With everything else he brings -- his work ethic, clubhouse presence and his willingness to have any role on the team -- we felt it was a very good fit."
Morrow just completed his first season as a full-time starter. He got off to a slow start but went 10-7 with a 3.46 ERA and 119 strikeouts over his final 17 appearances. The Arizona native, who made $410,000 in 2010, is 18-19 with 16 saves and a 4.19 ERA in 157 career games, including 41 starts.
The 28-year-old Escobar appeared in 60 games last season for the Blue Jays after being acquired in a trade with the Braves prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The native of Cuba hit .275 with four home runs and 16 RBIs during his brief stint in Toronto.
Escobar, who made $435,000 in 2010, has recorded a .289 average with an impressive .364 on-base percentage, including 33 home runs and 199 RBIs over his four-year career. He was entering his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Camp went 4-3 with a 2.99 ERA in 2010 while earning $1.15 million. He was a key member of the Blue Jays' bullpen and finished the year ranked 10th in the AL with 70 appearances. The 35-year-old is 19-23 with nine saves and a 4.44 ERA over his seven-year career.
Litsch, 25, has been limited to just 11 appearances over the past two seasons because of injuries. In 2009, he made two starts before suffering a right elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. Last year, the native of Florida went 1-5 with a 5.79 ERA, but he had his season cut short yet again because of a labral tear in his right hip.
Litsch, who made $415,000 in 2010, is expected to compete for the final spot in the Blue Jays' starting rotation this season. He will face competition from left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and rookie Zach Stewart. In 59 career starts, Litsch has gone 21-24 with a 4.10 ERA while striking out 173 batters over 342 2/3 innings.
Janssen, who made $700,000 in 2010, went 5-2 with a 3.67 ERA and 63 strikeouts over 68 2/3 innings out of the bullpen last season. The 29-year-old is 15-19 with a 4.12 ERA over 166 appearances, including 22 starts, in his career.
Earlier this week, Villanueva agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.415 million. The 27-year-old, who was acquired in a December trade with Milwaukee, went 2-0 with a 4.61 ERA in 50 games for the Brewers last season. He is 20-24 with a 4.34 ERA in 425 big league innings.