Should we worry about Rogers pulling the plug on the Toronto Blue Jays payroll?


Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

I missed this in the Morning Brew today but there was a very good article in the Globe and Mail on Friday by Tom Maloney titled “Will Blue Jays’ ugly season affect ownership’s tact?” It addresses some of the financial issues that the Toronto Blue Jays will face in order to fix the on-field product that so many fans bought into this year.

Despite an abysmal record there were good signs for the franchise off-the-field in 2013. The Blue Jays had the single largest year-over-year attendance jump in baseball and made huge inroads with the young-adult demographic. Even when the Blue Jays were losing the Rogers Centre was an electric atmosphere as I’m sure anyone who attended a game this year could attest to.

But now the team faces a challenge. How do they maintain momentum at the turnstiles with a limited pot of money to improve the team for next year?

The Blue Jays payroll was $127.8 million this season. They are committed to $110 million for 12 players, which doesn’t include Colby Rasmus‘ arbitration raise and Adam Lind‘s option. The article states it’s expected the Jays will seek a payroll increase of about $20-25 million to field next year’s team, which isn’t really that much money in baseball terms but that raise alone would cover most of the Houston Astros’ player salaries. The Jays’ payroll was $83.8 million in 2012.

We all know that high-end talent does not come cheap in the Major Leagues. And now even small-market teams are locking up their best assets such as with Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh or Joe Mauer in Minnesota. It’s becoming harder and harder to improve through free agency and many times the only way to get better is through the trade market much the way that the Blue Jays did last winter. Plus Canada’s tax rate doesn’t exactly make it an ideal destination for high-earning free agents.

The question remains how will the Blue Jays allocate funds even if the budget is increased? Would the team be open to signing a pitcher on a multi-year deal? Many of the Blue Jays most expensive contracts come off the books or become options after the 2015 season so some have suggested the Jays may hold off on making any long-term commitments until after that time.

However the impression that I get from the article is the same feeling that I had last year when we first learned the Blue Jays were expanding payroll – Rogers is serious about investing in this team. An interested audience means more eyeballs on their TV programming and other media outlets. One financial expert says “an added $25-million is irrelevant to Rogers investors on a per-share basis. Most important is the value of Blue Jays content as a driver of Rogers enterprises ranging from hand-operated devices to Internet services to cable television subscriptions.”

I know there are probably several jaded Jays fans out there who either think Rogers will fold on trying to compete or that much more than $25 million needs to be spent to significantly improve this club. But I think that we may be witnessing a sustainable business model for baseball in Toronto and despite what many call the most disappointing season in franchise history exciting times remain ahead for the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

"Sometimes, it takes time to build a championship team and we are prepared to invest the time and the dollar. – Rogers Media president Keith Pelley"

Sounds good to me, Mr. Pelley. Now just don’t let us down.