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.

MLB now trying to get minor leaguers exempted from minimum wage law at the state level

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In recent years, Major League Baseball spent significant amounts of money lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They succeeded last year, as minor leaguers are now considered seasonal workers and as such are not owed minimum wage or overtime pay.

MLB is not yet done attacking minor leaguers. Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times reports that MLB is trying to get Arizona lawmakers to exempt players from state minimum wage law. A proposed bill, HB 2180, is being sponsored by Rep. T.J. Shope (R – Coolidge) and would protect MLB from lawsuits, past or present, for not paying minor leaguers at least minimum wage during spring training. Minor leaguers already do not get paid for their work in spring training, so this is simply a preemptive maneuver by MLB to protect itself from potential lawsuits. As Giles notes, HB 2180 would enshrine the exemption in federal law in Arizona’s state statute.

Shope said, “I think it’s just trying to clear up what MLB considers a gray area on their blank. … My assumption is they obviously do have a concern, and are trying to protect a flank of theirs more in the pro-active sense.” Talking about minor leaguers, Shope said spring training is “essentially a tryout. You’re not on the team yet.”

Garrett Broshuis, a former major leaguer and one of the lawyers representing Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle in a case Craig wrote about here, spoke to Giles for his article. Broshuis said, “It really is just unfortunate, because the people of Arizona passed this law to require employers to pay all workers a minimum wage, and these ballplayers are performing a service that is a valuable service, and they deserve to be compensated at least the minimum wage for it.”

Broshuis is seeking class action status in a lawsuit against Major League Baseball in Florida and Arizona, the league’s two homes for spring training. Arizona is home to the Cactus League, the spring training league for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Royals, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners, and Rangers. A federal judge denied Broshuis’s request but he appealed and is waiting on a ruling.

MLB makes a ton of money during spring training the same way it makes money during the regular season: by charging for tickets, concessions, merchandise, and parking. Minor leaguers are part of the player population helping attract fans to the ballpark, so they deserve to be compensated for their work. That they are not is criminal enough, but to brazenly push legislation to remove any legal remedies they might have had is even more evil. MLB has been setting revenue records year over year, taking in more than $10 billion last year. The league and its individual teams can afford to provide a comfortable life for minor leaguers, but every day it makes the choice not to do so out of avarice.