This will not be an easy year for the two guys at the top of the Blue Jays' baseball operations department, president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins. No matter how much infrastructure they build, no matter how much backfilling they do with the Blue Jays’ front office, they are destined to be mostly judged on the win-loss record of the major league team.
The Blue Jays made the playoffs last year under native son Alex Anthopoulos before he walked out the door saying the fit just wasn't right, a change that places an inordinate and mostly insane pressure on Shapiro and Atkins to win immediately.
But the public negotiating play by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista actually took pressure off the Blue Jays' front office. He did Shapiro and Atkins a huge favor by making hard demands for his next contract.
Giving a 35-year-old player -- Bautista turns 36 next fall -- a four- or five-year top-of-the-market deal does not make sense for the Blue Jays. Making that sort of deal is not quite like banking on winning the lottery to fund your retirement, but it's close.
Talk to anyone in the Blue Jays' organization and they will tell you that Bautista is a model in how he takes care of himself, in how he treats his body like a well-oiled machine. "You wish that every player cared in the way that he does," one member of the front office said years ago.
If a team wanted to bet on production from a player age 36 and beyond, Bautista might be that guy. And he has every right to ask for what he wants. He's been a star with star-level production, and he's right in saying that his production value has been higher than his salary under the contract that he will complete this year.
But if he asked for something in the range of about $25 million to $30 million annually for four or five years, that would place him among the highest-paid position players in the majors and that just makes no sense for the Blue Jays.