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Blue Jays Can Afford David Price and Marco Estrada

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The sting of the A.L.C.S. loss is still painfully evident, but the time to consider the 2016 season and its complexities is already here. From signing Alex Anthopoulos to rebuilding the rotation, the Toronto Blue Jays have some extremely important decisions to make. We have plenty of time to look at their options from every angle, so let’s snap to one of the two most pressing issues: can the Jays afford to re-sign David Price and Marco Estrada?

The quick answer: YES

Based on Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the 2015 season budget for the Blue Jays was a healthy $125,915,800. This amount included $7,750,000 for Ricky Romero (he’s only owed $600K this season), and the Jays are shedding the following free agents:

ASSUMPTIONS

In order to make a fair assessment of whether or not the Jays can afford both Price and Estrada, I’ve made the following assumptions:

With all of these assumptions included, the following costs are associated with the team in 2016.

Oct 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) runs out a double during the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals in game five of the ALCS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

LINEUP COST $79,290,000

BENCH COST $7,230,000

Oct 23, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Roberto Osuna throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the 8th inning in game six of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

BULLPEN COST $6,750,000

TOTAL BEFORE ROTATION $94,870,000

The total above excludes league minimum contracts which can add up as the team loads up AAA and AA with 40-man rostered players looking to get a shot at a spot on the 25-man roster at some point in the season. This can add up depending on the number and cost associated with each addition. However, it does include the cost of opting out of the Izturis and Romero deals ($1.6m total).

ROTATION COSTS WITH PRICE AND ESTRADA $61,130,000

TOTAL: $156,000,000 (places Jays 7th highest in ’15 totals)

The Luxury Tax in MLB is $189,000,000 which means that the Jays are well under that amount should they decide to sign both Price and Estrada.

There are many articles out there explaining the benefits of a team making the playoffs, but the best broad-based one I’ve found is this one from thefieldsofgreen.com. Essentially, the Jays profits just received a huge burst of from the 11 playoff games they experienced this season.

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According to Forbes, after the 2014 season, the Jays were valued at $870,000,000 and had a reported operating loss of $17,900,000 despite revenues of $227,000,000. That season, the Jays had spent $137,177,700 and had a disappointing season overall, finishing 3rd in the AL East with an 83-79 record.  Questions were being asked about whether the fans would ever come out to see games more consistently if the Jays made a run for the playoffs, and the profitability of the franchise was questioned numerous times as a result.

Well, have those questions ever been answered. Unless Jays ownership relocated to a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, they now know what the rest of the Baseball world knows: the fans will support this team if they feel it’s trying to win and it’s going to drive attendance and profitability through the roof.

The moves made before the trade deadline this season are the difference between 2014 and 2015. Unlike 2014 when the Jays sat on their money and decided to go with what they had in-house, in 2015 they spent as needed to in order to get the team to the level it had to be to make a run to and through the playoffs. If management doesn’t sustain that impressive effort through additions this offseason, they’re going to deflate a ballooned fanbase that’s now hungry for a World Series Championship.

The Jays enjoyed an outstanding attendance boost as a result of their additions and success. The increase? The number of fans in attendance for the regular season was boosted year-over-year by 419,366 people, a huge increase in money for Rogers and the Blue Jays. Television ratings increased, merchandising sales increased, and the team’s income levels had to be well above the $17,900,000 in operating losses they reported in 2014.

If we use the amount listed in a recent Globe and Mail article, the Jays have enjoyed a $27,000,000 boost in profits through the regular season. This omits their profits from the playoffs and indicates the Jays should be able to afford paying David Price and Marco Estrada even if we discount their playoff profits.

If we assume the Jays benefit to the tune of approximately $5,000,000 per playoff game (an arbitrary and much smaller amount than what they received), they enjoyed an increase of at least $55,000,000 this season. That increase, added to the regular season profits, should be more than enough to cover bringing back David Price and Marco Estrada. There is no financial footing to base an argument against the fact that the Jays can sign both based on their recent increase in income.

THE HURDLES

Just because a team can afford to sign players, it doesn’t mean it should. Injuries, long-term outlooks, and the effects of being tied to contracts long-term are all issues that must be weighed before signing anyone. The hurdles to getting a deal done with David Price and Marco Estrada include the following issues:

Oct 23, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher David Price throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning in game six of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

David Price

  • How many years is he looking for and how many will the Jays be willing to give?
  • Will they stop their attempt to use 5 years as their maximum contract length?
  • How healthy is he, and how do the Jays view him going forward if and when his velocity drops?
  • Is he going to ask for a no-trade clause and will the Jays agree to it?
  • Can he pitch his way through the last 2 or 3 seasons if need be?
  • And finally, how does he feel about returning to the Jays and calling Toronto home for close to a decade? Is this where he wants to be?

Oct 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (left) takes out starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) during the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals in game five of the ALCS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Marco Estrada

  • With his stock soaring after stellar playoff performances, will the value still be there or will the price and length of the contract be too steep?
  • Will Estrada give the Jays an edge since they believed in him more than others and gave him the opportunity to perform as a starter?
  • How healthy is his arm?
  • Was 2015 an outlier or was it a sign of maturity?
  • How important were the playoff starts, indicating how unwavering his performances are under pressure?
  • Does Estrada want to remain in Toronto?

The truth is that by dealing so much youth to go for it in 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays have painted themselves into a corner and NEED to go out in either the free agent or trade market and get some starting pitching. How much depends on how you evaluate what they have in-house and whether you believe Aaron Sanchez will return to the rotation (I don’t). But, you have to know that the Jays need Price and Estrada more than they would if they had many options sitting in AA waiting for an opportunity in 2016. The truth is that they don’t have those options, and they now have to become competitive in bidding for both of these great pitchers.

Can the Jays afford to sign both David Price and Marco Estrada? The answer for 2016 is without a doubt a massive sounding yes. The question is do they want to afford them, will they seek other options, or do they plan on pocketing their profits and moving on without them?

If I were forced to make the call right now, I’d say the Jays have an edge on all other MLB teams to sign both David Price and Marco Estrada. There’s a better chance that they at the very least re-sign Estrada based on cost and length demanded, but I’m betting on them re-signing both. There’s an intangible value and attraction to the chemistry that both felt during this playoff run and a sense of a job yet-to-be-completed that needs to be resolved.

The Toronto Blue Jays just had an outstanding season. The fans and players alike are pumped about what they were able to achieve this season. But more than anything, they’re hungry for more and to go for it all again next season. With the profits in hand, no threat of a luxury tax, and the fan base needed to continue improving their profitability through next season, there’s literally NO EXCUSE if they fail to sign two prominent starters this offseason. And who would you rather have with the Blue Jays, the starters you know and love, or those who include so many unknowns?

The Jays can afford David Price and Marco Estrada, and my prediction is that they’ll do exactly that. Once they resolve their GM’s contract issues, of course.

Next: Toronto Blue Jays Decision Time Part 1: Options, Qualifying Offers, MLB News

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