It appears that the Blue Jays have postponed the date for Jose Bautista's arbitration hearing in hopes that they can agree to terms on a long-term contract. Signing Jose Bautista now could reduce the annual amount of money the Blue Jays would have to pay him as opposed to waiting until he becomes a free agent after this season, however it also brings a great amount of risk in that you are signing him long-term based on one seasons results. The alternative is to wait and see how he does this season and then try to re-sign him if he has another productive year. The risk with this option is that as a free agent every other team in baseball would also have an equal chance at signing him, which can often lead to one team overpaying for his services as was the case with Jayson Werth this off-season.
Considering the two options it seems more realistic that if the Blue Jays really do want to keep Bautista around, they should probably sign him now. So what about this risk that comes with signing a player long term after one season of 50 home runs? Well, I'm not sure if you noticed but hitting 50 or more home runs in a single season is actually quite rare and only 25 other players in the history of the game have ever done it.
So let's take a look at those other 25 other players, see what age they first hit 50 home runs and how they performed the following seasons:
Age they first hit 50 or more HR's
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5|
|* denotes 100 walk season|
I know that this is a really small sample size, and the steroid era has probably skewed the results, however looking at the above there are a few numbers that jump off the page for me:
• The average age (28.3) of all players who hit 50 home runs for the first time is almost bang on with Jose Bautista's age of 29 last season when he hit 54 home runs.
• Only 3 of the 25 players, or 12% followed up their initial 50 home run season with less than 30 home runs
• The average number of home runs in the season after hitting 50 home runs for the first time is 41.7
• The average number of total home runs hit in the following five seasons is 162, or an average of 32 per season
• Almost 50% of the players who hit 50 home runs for the first time, also had 100 or more walks that year, and those for that didn't most of them came very close to 100 walks in that season or had a following season of 100 or more walks
• Only 5 or 25% of the players followed up their success with another season of 50 or more home runs in the following year
So what does all of this mean? Really probably not a lot, however it looks like Jose Bautista probably won't have another season of 50 plus home runs, but it appears likely will hit at least 30 next year and knowing that, it is probably a good idea to lock him up now at a cheaper rate. Additionally, it appears likely that an ideal long term contract would be for three years, after which Bautista's production probably won't match his salary, but if it takes a five year contract to sign him now, it's probably still worth it. Finally, the risk of Bautista falling flat on his face next year really isn't as much as most people think it is, in fact, there is probably more risk in getting value for the money if you sign him after this season.