Blue Jays payroll could be playing the long game


The Blue Jays payroll has been a limiting factor early in the offseason, but the new regime could be looking deeper into 2016 with their available dollars

Payroll. It’s become a taboo word in the world of Rogers and the Toronto Blue Jays. While the annual number draws controversy in every Major League market, Toronto’s has played out on a much more public stage recently, creating a convenient powder keg for those not in favor of the new hierarchy.

Mark Shapiro continues to say that the Blue Jays budget will increase in 2016. To what extent you believe him and how greatly the exchange rate impacts that remains debatable, but this isn’t a patient conversation. If the budget is going to reach $150 million, fans want to see that by dinner time. The longer I look at this budget conversation, however, head tilted sideways like a confused dog, I begin to wonder if a sizeable chunk of budget finance is being intentionally held for a later point in the season.

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We don’t truly know a team’s ceiling budget until the July 31st trade deadline, and this much was true for the Blue Jays in 2015. Alex Anthopoulos had learned his lesson from past deadlines where he’d been left hamstrung by limited flexibility. Instead, he purposefully left money on the table to begin the season with the intent of using it later. When a different market had unfolded, and when he’d gained a greater clarity with his own roster.

The current market, as we all know, is paying arms at an all-time high. This goes from David Price all the way down to the John Axfords of the world, so is it conceivable to think that Shapiro and the Blue Jays are working to ride out this storm with what they have, then planning to take on financial commitments mid-summer?

The prospect capital involved with such a strategy is off-putting, certainly to Shapiro and Atkins coming from Cleveland. It’s possible, however, that eating a $6-8 million contract mid-season from a struggling or rebuilding organization will be worth the capital when compared to what $6-8 million buys on the current market.

A version of this strategy helped the Blue Jays to absorb the contracts of David Price and Ben Revere ahead of the most recent deadline, and much of that money initially left on the table was seen to be at the expense of Toronto’s bullpen. Sound familiar?

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While this isn’t the ideal strategy, there’s ample reason to believe that Toronto’s league-best offense and excellent defense can keep them afloat in the American League East. If Blue Jays management believes that $140 million prior to the season plus $10 million spent later will produce a greater September product than $150 million right now, that’s an argument with some legs. The 2015 playoff run modelled the value of that.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a popular strategy. At least not until the tail end of this long game comes into reality. Shapiro has already failed that popularity contest, not that he had a fair chance to begin with, but it could easily flip come September when the “real budget” emerges.