We don’t know for sure how much the Blue Jays will spend on next season’s payroll, but let’s have a look at where they are now, and also at their payroll history.
It wasn’t very long ago that the Blue Jays spent more than 160 million on their payroll in order to put a winning product on the field. By the end of the 2016 season they had exceeded 164 million, and they reached a high-water mark of just over 167 million spent on the 2018 roster.
These days, the Blue Jays aren’t carrying any high-priced veterans on their roster, as Tanner Roark and Randal Grichuk are their highest paid players at roughly 12 million each in 2020 (Grichuk’s signing bonus takes him up to 13 million for 2020). They also have 14 million left on Troy Tulowitzki‘s contract to pay out, which thankfully comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign.
Beyond that, the Blue Jays are in a very enviable position when it comes to their payroll situation, especially because it pairs well with their young and inexpensive talent. Having potential impact players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen and more on rookie-level contracts allows for the freedom to allocate those dollars elsewhere, should ownership approve of such a thing.
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How many dollars could be re-allocated? Again, we don’t know for sure what kind of payroll limit Rogers Media may have set for Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro, if any, but we can probably take a look at team history and at least make an educated guess.
According to spotrac.com, the Blue Jays could have as many as 30 players on a minimum salary of $583,500. If we’re keeping this super simple, that adds up to $17.505 million. Add in the guaranteed salaries of Grichuk, Roark, Chase Anderson (8.5 million), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2.929 million), and Anthony Bass (1.5 million), and the estimated totals for Ken Giles (8.4 million), Matt Shoemaker (3.8 million), and Brandon Drury (2.5 million), and we’re at roughly $70.13 million. Add Tulo’s 14 million on top, and we’re looking at around 84 million in total, as of this writing.
That means the Blue Jays have all the money they need to add whatever they want, right? Short answer: Yes, and no.
They opened the 2019 season with a payroll of $114,546,171, and if I’m being generous, that would probably represent the top of the scale for what ownership would approve for 2020. I don’t know that for sure at all, but after the Blue Jays have had the biggest attendance decrease in the American League for two consecutive years, I doubt ownership is going to hand over any blank cheques just yet.
That said, I don’t believe that Atkins’ hands are tied to make the right additions to the roster, especially if they are in the interest of the long-term picture as well. Someone like Hyun-Jin Ryu would work well for that sorta thing, as would Dallas Keuchel, or a few other potential trade targets. However, my own expectation is that the money won’t be flowing unless it’s going to the right players, and those opportunities are becoming more limited in a fast-moving free agent market.
The last time the Blue Jays had a payroll below the 100 million mark was back in 2012 when they started the season just shy of where they are now, a shade under 84 million. Again, I don’t believe that Atkins and company will leave things where they are, but in theory, they could.
My best guess is that they have roughly 20-30 million to play with, and that total would be on the higher side if they can sign someone like Ryu. Even if they pay him 20 million for an AAV, that could still leave them 10 million to add to the bullpen, at first base, or possibly in the outfield. They could always move some salary, like the 8.4 million owed to Giles on his expiring contract, which would give them more room to play as well.
There is plenty of time left in the off-season, so we likely won’t have an answer about their final payroll until sometime in March. That said, the Blue Jays should have the money they need to make the improvements that are potentially available to them, so here’s hoping they’re ready to spend it.