Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Great JoBau Debate

It is pretty much a contractual obligation, it seems, to weigh in at some point this week on the Bautista Question - trade him (i.e. supposedly "sell high") or hang on to him and try to make him part of TCTF?

Such illustrious commentators as Keith Law weigh in on the former position - it seems to be the "conventional wisdom."

Some bloggers lean that way I assume, though I've found it difficult to keep up with who is where on Bautista. Others vehemently take the latter position.

I've commented in passing on it at Batter's Box and here, but not in any depth. One blog that perfectly illustrates the split in opinion is Drunk Jays Fans - given the multiple authors there, opinions are often divided even among the writers, let alone the responses.

Yesterday Stoten made the case for dealing JoBau, and makes some points that have merit and others which I question. Today Parkes makes the opposite case and, in my opinion, brings up a point which trumps everything else being said.

I was going to go in depth on my thoughts on Bautista but so much of what I would have said mirrors the latter DJF article that it seems pointless. like Parkes, I cop to being one of those who thought JB was a questionable choice to be on the roster - who thought that if he remained here his only real purpose was to suck up at bats against lefties that Overbay would otherwise fail on.

While I'm not exactly waving the BAS flag still, clearly I was wrong about him. and herein lies a thought to give consideration to - sometimes the conventional wisdom turns out to be wrong. For example, what is the conventional wisdom about an outlier power surge in September? That you can't take such a performance seriously. Rookie pitching and other factors make it easier, so the "logic" goes, to preform well in September so don't read too much into it. And that wisdom is exactly what I explained to myself to account for Bautista's 10 homers last September.

Apparently, that was wrong. The same conventional wisdom says a player is unlikely to step up to a new level of performance at 29 and sustain it. Statistically this is true but it has and does happen, regularly enough for it to not be a pipe dream. See for reference Raul Ibanez, among many others. So the base assumption that this is a fluke which must be capitalized on is, itself, flawed. Law says the odds lean in favor of it being a fluke therefore the wise GM MUST deal. But this is not a game of 21, and there are other considerations including the following:

First, the needs of the team: they need high OBP players, of which they have too few; they need defensive versitility considering they are a team in transition; they need a capable 3B unless they are committed to EE; they need strong defensive play given they have some weak spots in that regard; then need a mentor for Escobar as well as other chemistry and clubhouse considerations.

Second, what the scouts say: ultimately you have to trust your coaches, scouts, and other personnel evaluators to give you an accurate read on whether this is a new performance level or a tough-to-repeat outlier. Also, assuming the conclusion is that it's an outlier, that doesn't necessarily imply that the actual expected performance level over the next, let's say, three years, reverts all the way back to his career numbers coming into last September. Maybe the "New Bautista" is a guy who can post a 115, 120 OPS+ over the next three years. if so, THAT is the guy you have to ask yourself if you can get a proper return on, not the league-leader OR the guy who was a fungible bench player a year ago.

Third, and most importantly; whether or not you actually CAN sell high. for this I'll first defer to a quality paragraph from Parkes' post, which reflects the argument I've been making:

There's also an assumption from the No Way We're Keeping Jose crowd that believes the Jays will be able to get a good return on Bautista in trade when the truth of the matter is that there's nothing to suggest this. It's kind of funny because the points that people raise to suggest selling high on the right fielder are the exact same that negate his value in a trade.

It's not selling high, when every one else is aware that it's a high point.

Bing-fuggin-O. Selling high implies taking advantage of a team willing to overpay. Yes, for the record, if the Marlins offered us Mike Stanton or the Yankees offered us Montero, I take that deal. The problem is, if all our own people say "it's a fluke - SELL!" then the people who work for the Yankees or any other successful team are going to say "it's a fluke - BEWARE!!" conversely, if the other team's people say "this is the new normal, grab this guy" then our scouts probably do too. the only way you sell high here is if you, as the Blue Jays, KNOW he's going to crash back to earth and the other team's guys think he won't. obviously, if that happens, you sell. but as Parkes said, if you assume competence on both sides of the deal, every argument you make for why another team would over-pay is an argument for why we shouldn't under-sell.

At the end of the day, I trust Alex Anthopoulos implicitly. If he deals JB, I'll be fully expecting a major regression soon. if he keeps him, I'm prepared to write him into the line-up projections for the next 2 or 3 seasons. but from an outsider's limited perspective, I think the things he brings to this club (beyond the 40 homers or whatever he ends up with) trump any but the most slam dunk trade offers.

and it doesn't take a Bautista fan-boy to see that.

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