Blue Jays hard at work on deal for Bautista
Despite little change in talks, GM Anthopoulos remains hopeful
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays continue to hold negotiations for a new contract, but as of Wednesday afternoon, the two sides had yet to come to an agreement.
Bautista was originally scheduled to go through salary arbitration on Monday, but the hearing was postponed to allow more time for contract talks. As per league rules, the club is not allowed to discuss which day the new hearing will take place, but multiple online reports have indicated that it will happen on Friday.
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said that little has changed since earlier this week, when he announced the hearing had been delayed.
"There's really no update," Anthopoulos said from the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin. "We had to postpone the hearing to continue to have dialogue with him and his representatives, and that's really all I can say at this stage."
Bautista is coming off a season in which he slugged a Major League-high 54 home runs and finished among the league leaders in most offensive categories. He ranked third in the American League in RBIs (124), slugging percentage (.633) and OPS (.995).
But Bautista is also a player who never hit more than 16 home runs in a season prior to 2010. Anthopoulos' challenge is to figure out where Bautista's true value lies.
"It's not one that I can just make the decision on my own," Anthopoulos said. "You rely on your staff; you rely on your scouts, your coaches.
"What I hang my hat on more than anything else in these types of things is, you're ultimately trying to make a determination on the person. I can't say enough good things about what type of person Jose is, what type of worker he is. ... The person will lead you in the right direction, and if you make the right bet that way, you end up being right more often than not."
While Anthopoulos would not get into any specific details about how talks with Bautista are progressing, he did elaborate on his general philosophy regarding contract negotiations.
The 33-year-old GM said he is not a proponent of signing players to incentive-laden deals. According to the collective bargaining agreement, teams are not permitted to sign players to contracts that award more money based on their overall statistics. Instead, teams sidestep the issue by including bonuses based on plate appearances or awards such as MVP and Silver Slugger.
Anthopoulos isn't a believer in those types of deals because he feels it creates off-the-field distractions that could cause turmoil in the clubhouse. That's exactly what happened in 2007, when Frank Thomas lost his starting job as the designated hitter and accused management of sabotaging his career to save money on the bottom line.
"The manager is given the players, and it's his job to set the lineup -- to set the playing time -- and he's the one running that clubhouse," Anthopoulos said. "The players shouldn't feel for a second, or even doubt, that there are orders from above or someone is being told something one way or the other.
"I always try to tell an agent that if we're talking about a deal with performance bonuses, I'd rather do a deal a bit higher on the base salary and take out the incentives so a player doesn't have to worry about those things. He can worry about winning."
Anthopoulos also said he does not include no-trade clauses to players who are eligible for arbitration. He pointed to the extensions signed by first baseman Adam Lind and left-hander Ricky Romero as examples of that mentality.
As expected, the Blue Jays will not enter into any discussion about a one-year contract with Bautista. Anthopoulos' policy is not to negotiate that type of settlement after the two sides exchange salary figures in advance of an arbitration hearing.
"The only way a one-year deal gets done is in a hearing room," Anthopoulos said. "One thing is, when you have policies, you'd better stick to them. The only way we would get agreements done is either a one-year deal in a hearing room. Otherwise, it would be a multiyear deal or one year and an option, like we did with Jason Frasor."
If the two sides are unable to come to an agreement prior to Friday, they will have no choice but to enter the arbitration process. A three-person panel of independent arbiters will listen to a presentation for both sides, then make an official ruling. Bautista, who made $2.4 million in 2010, is seeking $10.5 million, while the Blue Jays have countered with $7.6 million.
"I know [arbitration] is made out to be this adversarial thing, but from my standpoint, the player is going to get a large raise," said Anthopoulos, whose team has not taken a player to a hearing since right-hander Bill Risley in 1997.
"He's either going to get more than three times his salary or more than four times his salary [from] last year. I think it's a good day for the player either way -- it's just a matter of, he has to get on a flight and see if he is going to make an extra $3 million or not."
Bautista was one of the Blue Jays' first position players to arrive in Dunedin for Spring Training. He used his time to get in some early workouts but had to fly to Arizona on Sunday in advance of Monday's scheduled hearing. He's expected to remain away from the team until his contract is resolved sometime this week.
Toronto manager John Farrell said that while he would love to have Bautista back in camp as soon as possible, he doesn't foresee there being any issues with his absence.
"He'll be here in due time," Farrell said. "When you look at the length of Spring Training, it's really to make sure that our pitching is in shape. Position players, I'm sure if you polled them, they'd probably prefer it to be three or four weeks."