Blue Jays nearing five-year, $65M extension with Bautista

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UPDATE, 8:46 PM: Now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com is reporting that the extension carries a $13 million club option for a sixth season. So it appears that $65 million of the new contract will be guaranteed.

8:39 PM: Forget the minor ankle injuries. There might be real news out of Blue Jays camp tonight.

According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, Toronto is nearing agreement on a five-year, $65 million contract extension with Jose Bautista.

Initial reaction? It’s a big amount of money and a risky commitment for a guy who entered the 2010 season with a .729 career OPS to his name. Bautista was a journeyman during the first several years of his career and the Jays have now decided to reward him handsomely after his first breakout campaign.

Bautista led the major leagues in home runs (54) last year and tallied a cool 124 RBI against a .995 OPS. All of those numbers were career highs, however, and his batting line in 2009 looked far different.

Maybe Bautista really discovered something when he revamped his approach at the plate last spring and maybe he’ll be able to sustain his 2010 level of production over the course of the new deal, but it does seem unlikely. The Jays probably would have been better off reaching a one-year agreement with him this winter and allowing the 2011 season to play out. Bautista, 30, was in his final year of arbitration eligibility.

Astros name Justin Verlander ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, the team crowned ace Justin Verlander the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.