Blue Jays: Impact of no more 5 year limit on contracts


Since 2003, at this stage of the offseason the Blue Jays have always held their annual “State of the Franchise” address for their season ticket holders. This year was much different for a number of reasons. First and most obviously, Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins sat where we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston for many years.

Now called, “The Leadoff”, the event had a much different feel for fans and media alike, even having tickets listed on Stub Hub the morning of the event, for anywhere from $15-40. This was not the party atmosphere that had been created in years passed, especially considering the excitement that should be around a club that just made it’s first playoff appearance since 1993.

Not only did the event shift from an event for season ticket holders, but the even was live streamed, taking what was left of the “special” feeling for fans around the event.

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Change can sometimes be an uncomfortable thing to deal with, and it appears that fans will have plenty to get used to with the new regime in place. That said, there were a few nuggets shared that night that will bring a potentially significant impact to the roster.

The most significant to me? When Ross Atkins was asked about the previous limit on 5 year deals or extensions with players. For those who don’t remember, Paul Beeston had a strict 5 year limit on contracts, which had the endorsement of Alex Anthopoulos and the rest of the front office.

While there was always legitimate rationale for that policy, it has been a source of frustration for Jays’ fans for many years. Taking David Price for example, had the Blue Jays been a legitimate bidder for the left-hander, they likely still wouldn’t have even gotten a meeting with his agent.

When Atkins had the questions posed to him, his quick answer was simple, “We’re not restricted to anything”. The comment came after questions surrounding a potential extension for Josh Donaldson, and how the club would approach the talks. You can argue for or against this change, but in the ever-changing landscape of the MLB, it seems like a very necessary change.

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In years passed, I’ve actually agreed with the policy and sat patiently waiting for these contracts to bite other teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and others. Sure enough, now the Yankees have been restricting their free agent spending, while also paying  eight-figure contracts to aging players like Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Carlos Beltran and more.

It can be survived in a market like New York, but I’ve always feared a repeat of the Vernon Wells contract in Toronto, and haven’t forgotten the impact that contract had on the rest of the roster until it was jettisoned to Anaheim.

In the modern MLB world of billion-dollar TV deals, salaries are going to continue to grow as the revenues continue to grow. Players are going to have higher expectations going forward, and the idea of considering a five-year deal against a seven or eight year contract will be a bigger factor in the future than it has been in the past.

Looking at the last 5 years as an example, here are some of the 5+ year contracts/extensions that have been doled out:

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If they Blue Jays want to be serious about not only bidding on potential free agents, but also on retaining their own home grown stars, this was a necessary policy change. If you don’t agree, fast-forward to 2021 and imagine a 29-year-old Marcus Stroman signing with the Yankees on a 6-7 year deal.

It won’t be a strategy used often, but it’s nice to know the Blue Jays are no longer opposed to looking at individual cases before making decisions. It would be difficult to hold that policy in the future of a cash-infused MLB.