“If only the Blue Jays weren’t in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees…”. How many Blue Jays fans have been part of those conversations over the last couple decades when defending why the Jays couldn’t compete in the consistently challenging AL East? Always pointing to Boston and New York’s willingness to consistently hand out large contracts to top players, while Jays fans watched and wondered what having an ownership willing to spend would be like. Well, based on last and the current off-season, things are changing this side of the border in the beast of the east.
The game has proven over the years that having a top payroll doesn’t necessarily result in success and operating on a minimal budget doesn’t prevent you from it either. Baseball fans have experienced both ends of the spectrum over the years. However, I can’t buy into any process of low budget teams in this money making industry (I mean, imagine how much better the Rays would be if they spent even $100 million!).
I’ve always understood that this is a business at the end of the day. But, if you want good returns on your investment, you put a good product on the field. Especially for an organization in which their fan base has proven they can fill the Rogers Centre when that is the case.
Blue Jays had a top-ten payroll in four of the last eight seasons, including their franchise highs in the $160-$170 million range, in 2017 & 2018. Could we start seeing this organization hitting record payrolls? I don’t expect them to come close to the CBT tax (whatever that amount is), but depending on the scenario, could we see them hit or come close to the $200 million mark for the first time?
Hey, it’s not my money, so if Rogers decided to go out and shock MLB (then again would it really be shocking for a giant media corporation?) and spend $250 million, what do I care?! Go nuts. In fact, I endorse that as a fan. However, that’s likely not reality, so when we hope for certain players to be signed or traded for, we must wish within their limitations. But what is their limitation? Earlier this off-season multiple outlets suggested a 2022 payroll in the range of $160-$180 million. From MLBtraderumors.com:
"“Perhaps more interesting, however, is Sherman’s suggestion that one theoretical Freeman suitor, the Blue Jays, has been given ownership approval for a “large increase in payroll” even after the additions of George Springer, Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios over the past year-plus.”"
Blue Jays Active Payroll is currently ~ $135 million (including arbitration projections). They are more than capable of adding multiple high-priced players – depending on the terms however, it could come at the cost of not extending another current player – but they could do it if they so choose. The key part there is the terms. If while the Blue Jays address their current roster holes they can fill spots with short term contracts, I’m confident we’ll start seeing unfamiliar payroll territory starting this year. If a player can be had on a higher AAV contract, but for one-two years, I believe the Jays will push the needle for the right players. Their guaranteed payroll is ~ $103-mil and ~ $70-mil for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, respectively (plus raises and arbitration).
Current free agents projected to make at least $20 million AAV
Kris Bryant, Carlo Correa, Freddie Freeman, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and Trevor Story are a few of the top free agents available. Plus, depending on term, who knows if Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw and Michael Conforto are in that mix as well. Point being, there are multiple high price options available once free agency resumes and I’d bet the Jays sign at least one of the remaining “high-price” free agents – and won’t stop there.
That said, as a business, you cannot just throw money around, because everyone has limitations, so you want to be in the best possible situation where you can wisely stretch the dollar whilst not getting handcuffed for your future (Yankees will be experiencing this over the next couple years). If the Jays choose to make both a blockbuster trade and add a $25 million AAV player long-term, they most certainly can, and this is where if they still want to add and stretch the dollar but affect the future, they go after short-term deals. For example, let’s say they add $30-$35-mil between a trade and top signing that adds to the rotation, lefty bat and positional need, that takes them to ~ $165-$170 million (minus whatever big league contracts involved in said trade). They could then go spend $20-$30 million on short-term deals and making the bullpen that much stronger in that equation could be one way to go (Kenley Jansen on a one-two year deal or trading for Craig Kimbrel and the one year left at $16 million).
No matter which direction management decides to go, I expect them to be in on every top free agent and player available via trade as soon as an agreement is made on a new CBA. Hopefully that happens soon as fun times are ahead for Jays fans! Who do you want to see them target?