There's always a future risk to your credibility when you make bold statements with an online pseudonym, but hearing that The Oracle agrees with your point of view helps wash away most of the self doubt. (I'm talking about my incredulity at the Jose Bautista-Robinzon Diaz trade.) Still, after some reflection I think I might be second guessing my own second guessing on the deal, if such a thing is even possible.
Looking at the acquisition in isolation, it really doesn't make enough sense to warrant the dollar cost to this mid-market team. Bautista will be kind of expensive for a utilityman if he's retained next year after going through through arbitration. He's making $1.8 million this year and the deepest pay cut allowable (20%) puts him at a floor of $1.44 million, with a ceiling probably just north of $2 million. He's been pretty steady over the past three years and I'd be mildly surprised if you got him for less than he's making this year.
The money is one thing, but Bautista's really not that much of better of a hitter than Scutaro. More pop, yes, and this is a club that lacks for homeruns, but over the past three years Bautista has OPS+'d 94, 96, 89 compared to 96, 89, 87 from Scutaro. Bautista has hit lefties well (though not Kevin Mench-well) over his career (123 OPS+), but I wouldn't exactly call him a lefty-masher. He also has less defensively flexibility than any of the current bench players being unable to play short. As I said the other day, I just don't see the point of keeping Bautista around for a 3-man battle royale for UTIL playing time with Scoot and Inglett capable of doing a bit more with the glove and pretty much the same with the bat.
And here's the thing: maybe it's not a 3-man battle royale for UTIL playing time JP's envisioning after all.
I'm wondering if the Bautista trade signals that JP has Inglett pencilled in for starting duties at second next year (with Hill to short), leaving Scoot, Bautista and J-Mac as his 3 main non-catcher bench guys. Now, that makes sense, in fact, it just might be a classic JP bargain bin coup.
The free agent SS market is what it is, a bunch of early to mid-30s vets with good-ish track records and gaudy price tags. None you'd enthusiastically welcome aboard in 2009, well, none I would. I'd want to avoid going more than 2 years on a guy like Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria seems to have angered Jobu and should be avoided entirely, while Rafael Furcal would cost the moon and the stars. And for what, really?
Furcal's career line is .287/.352/.412 and he's seen as a catalyst out of the leadoff spot. He plays good defense and has speed, posting 25 stolen bases in 2007. For that, you'll have to go at least 3 years at $13 million per to even enter the bidding for his services.
And what of Joe Inglett, a 30-year old sophomore who's controllable for as long we want him? He's got a remarkably similar career line of .296/.348/.415, albeit in far fewer ABs, though he'd been putting up that sort of line through his long minor league career. If Inglett can play adequate D at second, and Aaron Hill can improve on his play at short (with more tutelage from defensive whiz Brian Butterfield), that's a big savings passing on a few dozen stolen bases...
Inglett's not the same player as Furcal and I'm not attempting to pretend that he compares in all facets of the game. But if it saves more than $10 million making him a regular over chasing a free agent who's no guarantee to hit any better, I think I'm comfortable with a bigger picture that includes Bautista in a bench role. Especially if there's a hard budget and limited cash to bring in the starter (like Derek Lowe) and DH (like Jason Giambi) so desperately needed if the 2009 Jays are really planning on being competitive.
-- Johnny Was