Sustained Blue Jays audiences could push future budget

Dec 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro conducts a media scrum after a media conference to introduce the club
Dec 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro conducts a media scrum after a media conference to introduce the club /
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After the Blue Jays kept their budget relatively stable between 2015 and 2016, a sustainable audience both at the park and on TV could change that

If you build it, they will come. Or at least they’ll watch.

After the Blue Jays saw their attendance and television numbers spike from July to October last season, Blue Jays fans took issue with the fact that these excess profits were not directly invested back into the baseball team.

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Unfortunately, the equation is not as simple as $10 million in excess income creating $10 million in excess budget for player personnel. From a business standpoint for Rogers and the Blue Jays management, it is important to recognize that those few months represented an outlier from the past decade.

If those numbers can sustain throughout much of 2016, however, then perhaps 2017 could be the season that we see the on-field success translate into a thicker wallet for Ross Atkins, Tony LaCava, and Mark Shapiro in the free agent market (both internal and external).

Sunday afternoon’s season opener had an average audience of 1.46 million viewers, up 90% from last season. Now, that’s still a far cry from last season’s playoff numbers, but this is to be expected. In game three of the ALDS last October, the Blue Jays broadcast on Sportsnet had an average audience of 4.17 million with a peak of 9.14 million.

The Blue Jays do enter this season with a larger initial audience, and with a roster expected to content throughout the season (instead of hovering around .500 before a trade deadline boom), the “lows” in audience shouldn’t be so low.

Another factor working in the Blue Jays favour is the NHL. With none of the seven Canadian teams making the playoffs this year, the Blue Jays should be able to win over some more “general” sports fans who would otherwise be tracking a Canadian team on the ice.

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If the club can maintain these numbers from April right through to October, then it is no longer an outlier. Instead, it can be seen as a new norm, and that is a state under which management should be much more comfortable working.

This also adds some logic to the wait-and-see approach with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Should Rogers and Jays management see this success sustained over a full year and a half, then moving from three to four years with Bautista, or from $23 million to $26 million, will be easier done.

The same goes for other high-profile free agents like Brett Cecil, Drew Storen, R.A. Dickey, and Michael Saunders. Beyond that, there is also the possibility that the new regime looks to extend someone like Marcus Stroman early in their arbitration years.

But first, the club needs to know whether 2015’s market was an outlier or the new norm. If it’s the latter, then Blue Jays fans could soon notice the changes they expected to see last offseason.