Alex Anthopoulos vs. J.P. Ricciardi Signing Comparisons

We all know that at any point in time, trades can make a huge difference. We also know that Alex Anthopoulos has a very effective trigger finger, and that he won’t shy from a deal if it presents itself while making sense for the franchise. Having said that, with his most recent extension now completed, I thought it would be interesting to see who he has committed to through extension since becoming the Jays GM.

Ricky Romero (26)

  • Signed a 5-year $30.1 million contract in August 2010 with a $1.25m bonus.
  • He makes $750K in ’11, $5m in ’12, $7.5m in ’13-’14-’15, and the Jays have a $13.1m option for 2016 ($.6m buyout).
  • The deal could wind up costing the Jays as much as $43.2m if the Jays pick up the ’16 option, when Ricky will be 31 years old.

Jose Bautista (30)

  • Signed a 5-year $65 million contract in February 2011 which prevented their going through arbitration.
  • He makes $8m in ’11, $14m in ’12-’13-’14-’15, and a Jays option for ’16 at $14m ($1m buyout).
  • The deal could wind up costing the Jays as much as $78 million if they pick up the ’16 option.

Adam Lind (27)

  • Signed a 4-year $18 million contract with 2 club options for ’14-’15-’16 in March 2010 with a 600K bonus.
  • He makes $5m in ’11-’12-’13, could make $7m in ’14 ($2m buyout), could make $7.5m in ’15 ($1m buyout), and could make $8m in ’16 ($.5m buyout).
  • The deal could wind up costing the Jays as much as $37.5m if they pick up all 3 options years.

Yunel Escobar (28)

  • Signed an extension worth $10 million with 2 club options for ’14-’15 in June of 2011.
  • He makes $2.9m in ’11, and has been extended to make $5m in ’12-’13, and the Jays hold options for $5m in ’14-’15.
  • The deal could wind up costing the Jays as much as $20 million if they pick up both options.

Altogether, these 4 signings represent the following investments for the Jays if they decide to pick up all options through 2015:

  • $16.65m in 2011
  • $29m in 2012
  • $31.5m in 2013
  • $33.5m in 2014
  • $34m in 2015

A couple of notes before I go on: I didn’t include Rajai Davis, Edwin Encarnacion and others due to their short-term signings, and I went to 2015 since Escobar’s deal didn’t extend to 2016. However, I will note that the 2016 total for Romero, Bautista, and Lind is $35.1 million if all 3 options are picked up by the Jays.

What does that indicate in terms of budgets for the future?

Well, if we listen to what the Jays brass have been touting, the Jays could very well be in their way to budget expenditures that will go well past the $100 million mark. As some of them would say, that will happen “if and when it makes sense for the organization to do so”. If that’s true, here’s what the Jays would have to work with now that those signings are in the books and assuming that all of them remain with the Jays through this time (using $100m as a minimum investment), with the other commitments already made included in brackets at the beginning of each line:

  • ($7.15m) Budget at $100m = $63.85m in ’12 to work with
  • ($3.65m) Budget at $100m = $68.5m in ’13
  • ($0) Budget at $100m = $66.5m in ’14
  • ($0) Budget at $100m = $66m in ’15

What does this tell us altogether?

  • The Jays are seemingly set at 1B, RF (LF or DH), SS (or 2B), and a spot in the rotation through 2015 if they exercise all options through 2015. This includes filling the #1 (or #2), #3, and #4 spots in the lineup, as well as their #1 starter.
  • They have anywhere from $63.85m to $68.5m to use to round out the remainder of the roster if they set the budget at $100m beginning in 2012. Obviously, if they do go as high as $125-$150 million as hinted could happen during their pre-season address to season ticket holders, they have a lot more to work with.
  • They have not once included either a player option in any of their new contracts.
  • They have not once included a no-trade clause.
  • They have always obtained club options which increase the flexibility the club has to work with.
  • Each player they signed long-term was under 30 years old, has a history of healthy play, and signed what can be viewed as a team friendly contract – even if there is risk involved in any long-term deal.
  • None of the contracts goes past 2016, even with options included.

Another interesting note is that 3 of the 4 players signed long-term were inherited from the J.P. Ricciardi era, showing that Alex Anthopoulos isn’t “overhauling” the core of the team. However, the contracts that Anthopoulos has put in place since his arrival do not compare to those completed by J.P. Ricciardi during his tenure as Jays GM, and that’s a VERY good thing. In comparison, Ricciardi had signed players to the following contracts:

Vernon Wells

  • Signed to a 7-year $126 million contract with a full no-trade clause.
  • Got a $25.5m signing bonus to be paid in 3 yearly installments.
  • Wells had an opt out clause post 2011.
  • Set to receive bonuses for MVP, most all-star votes ect…

Alexis Rios

  • Signed to a 7-year $69.835 million contract with ability to block trades to 6 teams.
  • Got a $3.5m signing bonus.
  • Had a trade clause included that if he was traded  between beginning of ’11 and Spring Training ’14, all of his salaries would increase by $0.5 million and that if traded in ’14, his salary in ’15 would increase to $14m with a $2m buyout vice $13.5m with a $1m buyout.

Talk about a difference in approaches. Another clear example would be his signing of A.J. Burnett for $55 million over 5 years, armed with a $6 million bonus, an opt out clause for A.J. in ’08 - which he used, an ability to block trades to 15 clubs, and a ludicrous clause that stated that the “deal includes 8 round-trip limousine trips per season between Toronto & Burnett’s Maryland home for his wife.” WOW!

Here are the most noted differences between Anthopoulos and Ricciardi signings:

  • Ricciardi seemed to approach each deal with a “we have to lure this player to Toronto” approach that sought to give players all sorts of incentives to stay put. Anthopoulos is only signing players who have already indicated that they are both proud and happy to be Toronto Blue Jays players.
  • Each time, he signed his “star” players to contracts, Ricciardi made them way too lucrative and long in duration. Anthopoulos has instead used the “team option” approach to ensure that the club has both access to the player should it want it, or the ability to select a different – and hopefully better – option if it presents itself.
  • The bonuses are almost non-existent under Anthopoulos but were very prominent under Ricciardi.
  • The incentives, including the no trade clauses, gave the players all of the power and took away the flexibility of the Jays to make moves if and when deemed appropriate when Ricciardi was at the helm. Anthopoulos has yet to include an incentive to any player, include Bautista who broke their all time HR record!!!
  • The total of the deals, worth nearly $200 million for only 2 playersVernon Wells and Alexis Rios, works out to an average of $27.97 million per season, nearly the same yearly amount the Jays will be paying for Ricky Romero, Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, and Yunel Escobar if they use all of their options through 2015.

The difference in approach is not only refreshing to Jays fans because they make more sense, but also because they allow the Jays the flexibility they need to make significant moves in the future. I, as with many other Jays fans, will believe that the Jays will move towards a $100 million plus budget when I see it. But, when you look at the moves and signings that Alex Anthopoulos has made since he has taken the helm, you realize that he can make $70 million go about as far as J.P. Ricciardi could make $90 million go, so it may not be necessary – or prudent – to surpass that mark too quickly.

As Jays fans begin to wonder whether the Jays will make a move for Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder, or other soon-to-be big name free agents, I have to caution that it will take what I call a “J.P. Special Edition Contract” to get that stature of a free agent in a Jays uniform. Can, or should, the Jays make that kind of investment once again? Or, should they continue to make smart and sound signing that continue to add pieces to their core?

I think the answer lies only between the ears of Alex Anthopoulos and will only be answered when he assesses whether or not that signing would push the Jays to their ultimate goal of being a perennial contender. Anything less would not be worthwhile and would be contrary to anything he has done, or said, thus far. He has stated over and over again that the Jays are not going to take any short cuts. In my mind, that means that the Jays may be more willing to extend players they helped build into the players they are than to reach out to a high named free agent that may not be worth the investment in the end and would definitely be asking for bonuses, incentives, and power that would restrict the flexibility of the franchise as a whole.

Finally, I’d like to point out one last detail: After signing their massively lucrative deals, both Wells and Rios failed to live up to expectations. Meanwhile, the 3 of those signed by Anthopoulos with playing time to look at after signing their deals have done better post-deal. What does that tell us? If you sign an “honest” contract that you know you can live up to and that doesn’t place undue expectations on you, it may be the better long-term option for you and can benefit your results on the field. You don’t need to look any further than Lind and Bautista having career years simultaneously than to know that some of this has to be true. Not every player will respond in the same way, but there are so many examples similar to that of Wells and Rios (Werth and others) that I don’t feel I have to go any deeper than offering their examples.

However you cut, slice, or dice it, you have to agree that all 4 major extensions misted above and completed while Alex Anthopoulos has been at the helm are all team friendly, predictable, and great value contracts that will work towards making the franchise stronger as a whole. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next for the Jays in terms of extensions. Will Brandon Morrow be next since he has 2 more arbitration years before becoming a FA after the 2013 season? He definitely fits the mold and would be a great “sign low” candidate.

The comparison completed above was done to provide Jays fans with a clearer picture of what has gone on of late and how the faces of the franchise have been secured without making any silly or too-risky investments. Even if you deem one or another too risky, you have to at least agree that they are better than the major deals agreed to during the J.P. Ricciardi era. And, when you consider that Alex Anthopoulos was able to get 2 players in return for the worst of the two, you are forced to tip your cap to the Jays GM for a job well done.

Alex Anthopoulos wins on all counts. No doubt about it. If you can criticize any of his long-term signings, please state your case below, because I can’t find fault in any of them. I’m only waiting to see if his signings are accompanied by more of the same, or whether they are accompanied by one or two big signings. Time will tell….

(all figures included above were courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts)

- MG

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