Blue Jays: Even with arbitration raises, payroll should have lots of freedom

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 16: Ken Giles #51 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after the final out during a MLB game against the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre on August 16, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 16: Ken Giles #51 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after the final out during a MLB game against the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre on August 16, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays only have roughly 29 million in guaranteed salaries on the books for 2020, and even more flexibility with minimal arbitration raises to worry about.

The Blue Jays will enter the off-season in a pretty enviable position despite the fact that they won jut 65 games in 2019.

They’ll boast a talented young core in 2020 and beyond, with most of them making their big league debuts in the last season or two. It’s a fantastic way to start the foundation of a rebuild with long-term planning in mind, but it also comes with the added benefit of rookie-scale contracts. In short, the Blue Jays have a lot of money to play with in the next few seasons, should they choose to use it.

Both Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have alluded to as much when meeting with the media in recent days, but it remains to be seen what kind of opportunities they’ll be able to take advantage of over the winter. However, with just 29 million in guaranteed salaries on the books, one would think that the payroll should be pretty wide open.

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There are arbitration cases to think about as well, but even there the expenses could be minimal. The big fish will be Ken Giles, who will no doubt earn a raise from the 6.3 million he made in 2019, but we’ll see whether or not the Blue Jays hang on to him this winter, or if they put him back on the trade market again before the final year of his current contract. If they keep him, chances are he’ll make 10 million or slightly less. If he’s traded, there’s a good chance that money also comes off the books.

As for the rest of the arbitration eligible cases, there are seven other players that the Blue Jays will have to make decisions on. Some of them seem like a foregone conclusion, like the Blue Jays non-tendering Devon Travis this winter, while others could be up in the air. They’ll have to decide whether or not they want to hang on to Luke Maile with the presence of both Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire (or perhaps they’ll look to trade him), and there are no guarantees that Ryan Tepera ($1.525 million), Brandon Drury ($1.3 million), or Ryan Dull ($860,000) will be offered a contract. They’ll have to decide whether to bring back Matt Shoemaker or not in the last year of his arbitration eligibility, but he only made $3.5 million last season. Derek Law is the final eligible big leaguer, and this will be his first time through the process.

Add it all up and even if they keep everyone they’re probably still under 50 million. I realize that ownership is going to be reluctant to spend after a 2019 season that saw the Rogers Centre take the biggest attendance dip in the league for the second year in a row, but surely they’ll spend more than 50 million if the right opportunity presents itself. It wasn’t long ago that they were shelling out three times that amount on player salaries.

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I’m not naive enough to think that the Blue Jays’ front office has 100 million to play with this winter, but considering how limited their contract commitments are at the moment, there’s no reason they can’t make some competitive offers to the right players. In theory, they should have the freedom to do almost whatever they want.

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