If you’re a Blue Jays fan, this year’s Spring Training opened with more action than in years past. Luckily, unlike many spring training stories, this one has nothing to do with driving while intoxicated…or being intoxicated in any sense. That is unless you fall into the camp of people who think that Jose Bautista is drunk on power, after reportedly asking for at least $150 million dollars over at least five years. Like every red blooded Canadian, I can appreciate Jose’s annoyance with Rogers and their ability to make money at the expense of everything Blue Jays. However, when it comes to Jose’s next contract, what’s good for the Jays is good for me. As a highly successful Craigslist price haggler and frequent viewer of TV’s Dragon Den (the UK version, obviously), here are some negotiating tips that the Blue Jays front office staff can use to make sure they ink Bautista to a contract extension at a more reasonable price.
Dress for Success
Ross Atkins needs to show up to negotiating sessions wearing an Albert Pujols (Angels) jersey. This sends a strong message to Jose that you know what happens when a franchise player walks away, and that it isn’t all bad. If you really want to hammer home the point, he can wear a commemorative hat marking the Cardinals three straight division titles.
Show Him the Bill for the Dirt Infield
Management can demonstrate how committed they are to the team, and why they can’t shell out another $150 million dollars, by showing Bautista how much money it will cost to throw some dirt on top of a concrete floor. In addition to the installation cost, the grounds crew labor bill is likely to double.
Being the world’s fastest means they likely don’t work for cheap either. If this doesn’t shock Jose, show him how much it will cost to research and develop the technology to put real grass in the Rogers Centre. Then suggest that with a new grass playing surface, he will actually be able to play until he’s 45 or 46, and that he can just cash in on the contract he signs after this one.
Play Head Games
Jose is not stupid. He knows that Jay Bruce is Justin Smoak with less chewing tobacco. Bruce isn’t going to replace Jose’s production, or fill the face of the franchise void. That doesn’t mean you still can’t use the Reds as leverage. Have Reds’ General Manager Dick Williams call Shapiro during negotiations (so Jose can overhear) and say something like this:
“Hey Dick, thanks for getting back to me. Oh, really? There’s only $180 million left on Joey’s deal? And just to double check, he’s 32, right? Last thing, how many infield flies did he hit last year? Ok, great. I’m just in a meeting, let me get right back to you.”
Letting Jose know there are younger players with similarly lofty on-base percentages should reduce his negotiating power. He should also realize that said player’s Canadian-ness would ease the PR transition into the post Bautista era, and make Jose think twice about his five year contract demands.
Sell Toronto as a Premier City
Toronto is a world-class city. Not only will Jose’s US dollars go further here (God knows management has made sure that we know about the exchange rates), but the city is home to superb restaurants and many renowned cultural events. Toronto also offers superior access to the relievers that Jose enjoys humiliating on the diamond. Jose won’t be able to face, light up, and subsequently taunt relief pitchers like Darren O’Day and Sam Dyson if he gets stuck playing in the NL Central.
One of the arguments in favor of a lengthy contract despite Bautista already being 35 years old is that Jose is a dedicated athlete that takes meticulous care of his body. If anyone is going to fend off the affects of aging into their late 30s as a professional baseball player, Jose Bautista is your man. This is where management can turn Jose’s own argument against himself. An examination of baseball players that have played into their late 30s and early 40s paints an entirely different picture of what kind of body is needed to excel as an aging baseball player. Despite Jose’s dedication to fitness, nutrition and whatever other science is available to someone making $14 million dollars per year, his body type is not one often found on players successful into their forties. Does Jose look anything like beanpoles Randy Johnson or Ichiro Suzuki? I think not. He doesn’t appear to take the passive approach to fitness that successful 40 somethings R.A. Dickey or Bartolo Colon have either. While players like Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson remained in elite shape into their forties, PED’s are not an option and most likely, neither is cocaine. While physical fitness is something generally tied to peak performance in professional athletes, old baseball players appear to be the exception to the rule. Atkins and Shapiro can use these historical comparables to cut a few million off Jose’s asking price.
Team Grooming Policies
Second only to the bat flip, is Jose Bautista’s beard, in terms of his identity as a player. Shapiro and Atkins need to send a friendly reminder to Jose that this beard will not be able to follow him to New York, should he choose to sign with the Yankees. More recently, the former victim of these stringent rules, Don Mattingly, has enacted a similar policy in Miami this season. Jays brass would be wise to point out the growing trend of beardless baseball teams and sell Toronto as a liberal utopia where he is free to express himself through his appearance anyway he chooses. Gibby don’t care about that stuff. Just ask Eric Thames.
If Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro tastefully, and subtly use the negotiating strategies discussed above, I guarantee that Jose will back down from his hard line stance and re-up with the Blue Jays before he hits the free agent market. And if not, no sweat. They just signed Dom Brown anyway.
Lead photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports