Where’s the money, Anthopoulos?

On Prime Time Sports last night, during the segment with Shi Davidi that I noted in last night’s GM Meetings After Dark post, Bob McCown says that he’s heard from a source that he thinks is credible *COUGH* Paul Beeston *COUGH* that the Jays’ payroll for the 2014 season will be $150-million, echoing a number that I’ve heard from David himself and a number of others as well– including Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun, whose report I commented on yesterday.

It’s an impressive number when you remember that the club’s payroll was just $83-million in 2012, and $70-million the year before. It’s not so much an impressive number, however, when you consider all the heavy lifting that Alex Anthopoulos is faced with this winter, and the fact that the club already has $120-million committed, plus more still to be accounted for: something on the order of $4- or $5-million for pre-arb players, and another $11.2-million in projected salary for arbitration eligible players Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia, Brett Cecil, and Esmil Rogers.

The “true” figure, then, is more like $135-million, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for Anthopoulos to operate on a free agent market that has already seen the agent for Ervin Santana announce that his client is looking for a $100-million contract, while it’s believed that Ricky Nolasco is looking for $80-million. Crazy numbers, but probably not very far off from reality.

So what the hell can Anthopoulos do, then? Is he essentially stuck already? Not necessarily.

Consider, for one, the fact that– as John Lott noted back in April in the National Post– around this time last winter the club’s payroll was set to jump to just $105-million, and they blew past it. That’s the figure Alex Anthopoulos had reportedly been given by Rogers, but when their move for Jake Peavy fell apart and the deal with the Florida Marlins materialized, the GM and his boss, Paul Beeston, were able to convince the higher-ups that the business case for doing the deal, and going $15-million higher than planned, made sense.

More realistically, though, the club will need to get creative in moving some money around. I mean, we’re hard on Rogers around here– and skeptical, I think for good reason, about how far they’re going to be willing to go before once again reining in spending– but we can’t expect a repeat of last winter’s massive payroll increase. Nor, frankly, can we fail to give them credit for what they then, getting ahead of the curve and bringing in a number of big contracts that they probably would have had a lot more competition for this winter, given all kinds of TV money now freely flowing throughout the game. (Then again, as I’ve written about before, with that money, plus the savings they’ve pocketed thanks to the new CBA in the draft– which will continue into next year, not just because of the new CBA, but possibly because of the draft picks the club will lose– as well as on the international free agent market, it can’t be forgotten that the increase isn’t quite as big as it maybe seems on the surface either.)

The Jays, then, aren’t in the best situation here, but it’s hardly impossible to navigate, especially considering some of the salary that can still be shed.

For starters, a part of last night’s Shi Davidi piece that I totally overlooked was the fact that, evidently, J.P. Arencibia “has drawn interest from other teams in trade talks despite a dismal 2013.” In addition to prompting an excellent tweet from Dan Szymborski, it suggests that there may be a way for the club to divest themselves of Arencibia, as well as the nearly $3-million he’ll earn next year. Apart from non-tendering him, of course, which I think is the other option. I wouldn’t try to suggest, if they actually found a taker, that they could get anything useful for their big league roster in exchange for him– a relief arm with actual options still left, perhaps?– but it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to get the money off the books.

There are other ways they could do that, as well:

- Ricky Romero is another “change of scenery” guy, and while it’s pretty damn fanciful to think that you’ll get much of it, any salary relief that the club could find by moving his contract would surely be more useful to them now than keeping him as an expensive lottery ticket stewing in Buffalo and several names down their starting pitching depth chart.

- J.A. Happ is on the books for $5.2-million, with a $6.7-million option for next season, and with the rate starting pitching is expected to go for this winter he actually could look like an intriguing back-end possibility for a number of clubs. The Jays can’t give away too much of their depth in that regard, and maybe I’m being a little too quick to write him off–especially given the way he pitched throughout last Spring Training, and the reason his 2013 was so badly derailed– but I very much want to believe that the club can do just as well with younger and cheaper arms in the same depth role, like Drabek, Hutchison, and Stroman. Even just moving Happ as part of a package in a revenue-neutral deal to pick up a low-end catcher or second baseman would be a terrific outcome for what may not be quite as terrible a contract as some once thought.

- With the emergence of Ryan Goins, the retaining of Mark DeRosa, the continued possibility of Munenori Kawasaki returning to the organization, and the fact that the club will probably have to add an even better second baseman than any of those three, it’s hard to see the need for a guy like Maicer Izturis. I know he was abysmal last year, but judging by the way his signing was greeted last winter, I think most clubs realize there’s at least a little more there there. And at two-years and $7-million, while far from great, the Jays may be able to save some money by finding a taker for him, too. Whaddaya say, Angels??? Romero, Happ and Izturis and all we ask for in return is… nothing, actually. Just as much salary relief as you can offer.

- Casey Janssen’s name has been thrown around a bunch, since he’s got “Closer” appeal and a damn stellar track record, but while the $4-million price tag for him is tidy, I’m just not sure how much the Jays would actually be able to get back in return for just a single year of his services. Consider the flooded relief market and, as I’ve said a number of times already this month, Steve Delabar– who won’t hit his first year of arbitration until 2015– really starts to look like the valuable piece at the back of the Jays bullpen. Dealing him doesn’t save much money, though, and if that’s AA’s first priority, maybe it’s Sergio Santos who gets dealty. Santos makes a shade under $4-million, is awesome, and has three option years (albeit increasingly expensive ones) after this one, so there’s appeal there, and savings. I could stomach it if I have to, I suppose.

- Less likely than those names, I’d wager, are Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, and Mark Buehrle. Lind was ridiculously good against right-handed pitching last year and a replacement for him isn’t apparent in the organization, so despite the rumours about his still potentially being shopped (Really, Nick Cafardo? Because of his attitude?), they’d have to bring in a replacement who probably wouldn’t come as cheaply as he does, unless maybe they were genuinely inclined to move Melky Cabrera to DH and put Anthony Gose into the outfield, which I don’t see why they would be.

Or, if Rasmus and his $7-million-ish arbitration award were to be moved, the club could simply start Gose in centre. I’m wary of that, but I do think that, with his glove and baserunning alone, Gose can be a positive value player… just not as much of one as Rasmus in 2014. Plus, with the way the market is going, you have to think the Jays must feel pretty OK about going the qualifying offer route with Colby next winter, if they don’t at some point decide an extension is warranted (which… if they didn’t on Encarnacion until midway through his walk year, I don’t think they will on Rasmus, either). I’d think he stays.

And then Buehrle… maybe it’s that he was simply saying the right things, but the rumblings I’ve heard seem to indicate that he likes it here more than a lot of people want to assume, and that he’s not itching nearly as badly to get out of Toronto at this point as would have been expected a year ago if we had known then how the season was going to go. In other words, I don’t think the Jays will need to take a bath on his contract just to make him happy and move him along– which at one point seemed genuinely possible– though, if some team really valued him, or felt he was a better deal than one of the free agents out there (which, stunningly, is not nuts), the Jays could find themselves a lot of savings by moving him elsewhere. Problem is, if you do that, then what do you do with the giant, ridiculously consistent hole you just blew in your rotation? I don’t see it– not to facilitate signing a different pitcher.

- Lastly, I suppose Bautista or Reyes could also be moved to save some money– the former being more likely than the latter– but it remains hard for me to take any of that talk terribly seriously. That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen, but with the health concerns on Bautista, I just don’t think the return would be as staggering as a lot of people want to believe, which would make it pretty hard to justify. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t see the move-one-piece-to-fill-two-holes potential there, if you’re talking about really, true, quality upgrades in the rotation and at second or behind the plate.

Besides, like I say, I think they can give themselves quite a bit of payroll flexibility by moving some of the other names on the list here without have to go anywhere near considering that– nearly $3-million from Arencibia, maybe that much more on Happ, maybe a little on Romero and Izturis and a reliever. They could even swallow hard and non-tender Esmil Rogers and save almost a million bucks. I don’t know if they could necessarily get an extra $10-million to play with by doing any or all of that, but that might be in the right ballpark, depending how desperate teams might get for some of our cheap garbage, and how willing Alex would be to take on little more than salary relief in return.

So, trading Bautista for anything to do with flexibility or anything other than pure baseball reasons? I wouldn’t… but I probably wouldn’t move Santos either, so what do I know???

Comments (73)

  1. Move Lind, DH Melky, and platoon Gose and Pillar in left. You’ll get some added value from Gose and Pillar defensively over Melky and perhaps Melky will hit a little a bit better not having to play the OF. Maybe it won’t cover the entire loss of Lind, but it’d at least come pretty damn close and you’d carve out a significant amount of that payroll.

    • And the offense takes a huge hit. Not worth the cost savings.

      • Toooooootally.

      • Melky cost the team somewhere between 5-7 runs in LF last season. Let’s assume Pillar and Gose can provide average offense in a platoon (I think that’s fair) and save at least 5 runs (which I also think is fair and conservative). That’s at a win on defense. Adam Lind and his offense we’re worth 1.8 wins last season. Like I said, I don’t think you can recapture all the value lost by Lind’s bat, but you come pretty close there. If that additional 7.5 million allows you to get someone you couldn’t otherwise, I think that’s a clear win for the team.

        • It’s not. For one, you need takers for these guys to actually save the money. For two, I don’t think it’s anywhere close to a slam dunk that you get average offence out of your LF platoon.

          • We’re discussing trading Lind right? If that happens, obviously you’ve found a team to take on his contract. I don’t understand what you’re first point has to do with it, but I could be misinterpreting.

            As for average offense, but somewhere in the high 90s by wRC+. Over (and admittedly small sample), Gose put up 86 over the past two seasons. Pillar also put up 86 over a small sample and crushed lefties all the way up the chain in the minors. Maybe not a slam dunk, but it’s entirely reasonable to assume they’ll be close to average imo.

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  2. I’m still going with the theory that the Jays don’t operate with a set budget.

  3. Moving Romero is the dream, of course, and it wouldn’t totally shock me in the right circumstances. If the Jays went after Samardzija, for example, the Cubs seem like the type of team that would have the cash to take a flyer on him. But Samardzija probably costs some prospect capital I’d rather not part with.

    The other names you mentioned seem like the best fits to clear payroll – Arencibia, Happ, Izturis is over $10M right there.

    • Yeah, but you’re not going to get zero salary back in return for two of those guys, I’d suspect.

      • I think the best route would be including them in other deals.

        If the Jays trade for Iannetta, for example, you can envision the Angels having interest in one of (or both?) of Happ and Izturis.

        If they deal for Porcello, does Izturis have some appeal as a back-up infielder and mentor to Iglesias? Is Arencibia worth a shot as a platoon option against tough lefties with Avila?

        Just spitballing, obviously, but my point is that they could include them in deals where they’re getting better pieces/fits back, rather than just dumping their contracts.

  4. Moving Izturis, Romero and JPA would be good moves, I just don’t know which GM’s would take em.

    Moving Happ would probably get us a decent return, though an immediate trade partner does not come to mind.

    Lind is a good priced platoon piece, so I would be rather reluctant to move him for the sake of payroll. If we get a decent piece as part of a package sure, but I wouldnt sack him to simply reduce payroll.

    • I think you could move Izturis as a part of another trade, and the middle infield class is so bad this winter that some team probably misses out on a 2B and would take a chance on him.

  5. I’d happily give up Happ, Romero and JPA for a bag of balls.

    That’s some serious salary relief.

    And all 3 might do well for some NL team.

    • Or Izturis as you said.

    • The Jays would probably be eating a good portion of both Romero and JPA’s salary just as a starting point.

      • Not JPA’s, unless maybe they actually get something back for him, but Romero’s, yes.

        They can non-tender JPA pretty easily, so I don’t see them paying him to leave, and I don’t see a team giving up enough to make a deal worth kicking in all the cash for. Maybe?

        • Agreed; JPA should be non tendered. And I just don’t see anyone taking Romero and izturis without sending us mediocrity and $$ in return. Unless payroll goes up at least $25M after arbitration raises, we’ll need big years from morrow and dickey. Plus, one of Hutchinson or drabek needs to win 12 games. So many moving parts!

  6. Thing with Edwin’s extension was that he signed it in the middle of his breakout season. As before that season, he was no more than a 1-2 WAR player. So there were still question marks over him, and that is probably why they got him so cheap.

    IF Rasmus has another season like he did last year, or even half a season (since that is when you suggest they start to talk about resigning), he would be in the middle of his third career 4+ WAR season, and would probably be considered more of a proven player.

    Then Rasmus will probably cost you at least $75 million (same as BJ Upton), and perhaps more if the free agency spending goes up even higher this year. If Choo can manage to get a Jayson Werth like contract at age 31, you will probably be looking at Rasmus costing $100+ million, if he repeats what he did last season.

    I would prefer if the Blue Jays tried locking him up this off-season, and maybe before we see how crazy the spending happens. I don’t know if Rasmus would be willing to do that though, and there is still a lot of risk in him (thanks to his high BABIP last season).

    • I think he’s been so up and down throughout his career that another half season isn’t changing a whole lot. Plus they have Gose. I see what he does, make him the qualifying offer, and them am happy with the pick and the fact that I don’t have to pay him $75-million if he walks.

    • If he repeats last year, he will have 3 seasons of 4+ WAR, and be a free agent at the young age of 28.

      Wells only had two seasons of 4+ WAR before his big contract, and spending has gone way up since then.
      Choo has only had three seasons of above 4 WAR (albeit they have been 5 WAR seasons) and is much older.
      Upton only had two seasons of 4+ WAR.
      Adam Jones never had a 4 WAR season (was in the middle of his first) before he signed a $85.5 million deal.

      Then looking at the 2015 free agent class, assuming Hanley resigns with the Dodgers before the end of next season (since they just throw around money), Rasmus is probably one of the two best positional player available (Chase Headley is the only one I’d rank ahead of him).

      Rasmus is gonna get paid, a lot.

    • I’d like to see Rasmus stay right where he is.

  7. Unloading some salary to the Angels or Reds for Kenrick & Catcher or Phillips & Catcher seems plausible to me.

    You’d also be sending over some prospect(s) but I could live with that… maybe.

    • And yes, I recognize that my scenario is bringing BACK a whole lot of salary too. But that’s sort of the point.

    • You’d be sending over a shit-tonne in prospects if your aim is to dump salary on them.

      • Well I’m taking back a lot of salary too. My aim was more to be spending where my needs are (2B and C) rather than where they are not….

        But yes. Prospects likely required.

    • The point of the Reds trading Phillips would be to dump salary. They probably wouldn’t be taking any back.

      • Sure, and I can see the Jays taking on his salary, but in exchange for at least unloading one or two “bad contracts” back at the Reds… even if those don’t add up to Phillips’ salary.

  8. There’s definitely some ways to get a bit more salary relief unloading Ricky’s contract would be huge but no ones taking that dea. Question for you stoets how come I keep seeing two different tv revenue numbers being reported? I see 37 mill that has been reported then 50 mill + on some American sites ?

    • I’m pretty sure each team is getting an additional $25 million from the national TV deal. Don’t know how much that brings the total to though.

    • I don’t know about $37-million, but I know that I usually will say $26-million MORE than the previous deal for each team. That puts the number into the $50-million area. Don’t quote me on the specific numbers, but I think that’s what you’re seeing– some usage of just the new funds, and some of the full amount.

  9. Am I insane for thinking that simply sticking with Maicer might be the best approach to the 2B issue?

    • Not necessarily. I think the need at SP and C are greater than at 2B. So if they fail to upgrade at 2B but nail it at the other two positions I won’t be overly heartbroken personally.

    • At this point, I’d rather see Goins at 2B until (if) his defense falters. Let’s not quickly forget that Izturis spectacularly shat the bed last year.

      • Totally agreed, but the preceding years were pretty solid, especially for the cost. Essentially, I feel like going with a Goins-Izturis combo isn’t the end of the world, although admittedly it would require a 7 man BP to have 2 of Izturis/Goins/DeRosa on the bench. Provided significant enough upgrades are made to C and SP, of course.

    • Not entirely. But maybe.

  10. Rumblings on Twitter are that we have the first ‘interesting’ free agent signing of the offseason – and it’s kind of LOL-inducing – in Marlon Byrd going to the Phillies.


  11. I’d be trying to move Lind, Buerhle, some middle relief and maybe Melke, who has a pretty cheap contract , especially in this new market. I think Melke and Arencibia are both due for bounce back years though. After all, Arencibia can’t really get much worse than he was last year and in a backup role, the pressure to produce would be off. He’ll have to go at some point in 2014 or fans, myself included, are likely to get very angry but letting him play a couple months as a backup is sensible if it gives him a chance to rebuild his value a bit before jettisoning him. That way, you’re not trying to sell him at the absolute lowest point of his career. AA seems to like him for whatever reason (nice hair?) and isn’t the type to unload assets when they’re at their lowest value, especially if we don’t have a better backup catcher.
    As for Buerhle, I think his second half made too many people forget his first half. His contract is a ballooning mushroom cloud of debt and guys like Garza and Ubaldo could be had for less and do more. Or you could take the 50 million and get Brandon Phillips and/or Hanigan or Homer Bailey or (insert free agent name here). Or get two years of Robbie Cano? I’d rather have two years of Cano or four of Philips than three of Buerhle.
    I’d also trade Bautista if he could be used to get a Profar/Taveras/Wacha level prospect or two and a decent starter but it would have to be an overpay by the other team in terms of talent to make up for Bautista’s great contract and talent combo. Texas is a real nice fit as a trade partner I think. Martinez and Profar for Bautistsa? I’d throw Lind in there too–he’d look good in a Rangers uniform.

    • So you’ve just traded Lind, Bautista, Melky and Beuhrle and somehow in return have Profar. and some guy named Martinez?

      Ok, now you have 3 starting pitchers, 1 outfielder, 2 shortstops and no first basemen.
      Plus you kept an absolute plug behind the plate.
      Tell me more.

    • Buehrle’s contract will look pretty OK by the time this winter is through.

      Also… what???

      • Looking at the contract requests by Santana and Nolasco, Buerhle’s contract actually looks pretty good by now as you have a better idea of what you’re getting from Buehrle than the other two. Keep Buerhle!

  12. Colby Rasmus might actually be one of those rare players that would seriously consider a hometown discount.

    Normally, I consider talk of hometown discounts mostly window dressing (most players won’t seriously throw millions and millions of dollars away), but Rasmus might be one of the exceptions to the rule.

    • Profar is a second baseman these days in Texas (played 32 games at second this year, only 18 at short), not a shortstop and I meant Martin Perez, not Martinez, but substitute whatever decent young Texas pitcher you like there or think we can get instead (eg Ogando, Holland, Lewis). Obviously, we’d also be getting SOMETHING back for Melke and/or Lind as well so we wouldn’t have all those holes would we? We’d have a young, controllable pitcher instead of Buerhle, a great young second baseman/middle infielder instead of Izturis/Goins and quite possibly more. We’d also have a big hole in right field obviously, but aging outfielders are a lot less valuable than great, young middle infielders and pitchers. My point was that Melke and Lind are both very tradeable assets who are expendable. As for Arencibia, I’m not a fan either but letting him catch once or twice a week for a couple months wouldn’t be the end of the world.

      • Melky has pretty much zero value. Bautista wouldn’t get you Profar, let alone Profar and anybody else– especially not the guy they just signed to a very team friendly extension the other day.

        • If Melke was a good deal last year at 16 million for two years, he’s certainly worth something in this inflated year–the back tumor thing explains the off year to a large degree. As for your insistence that Texas wouldn’t trade Profar for Bautista, you’re basing that on what exactly? Profar hasn’t proven anything yet and had an ops of .644 this year. Compare that to Gordon Beckham’s .694 ops this year. Maybe Profar is the next Cano but maybe he’s the next Beckham. Bautista is a well known, elite slugger with a great contract. He’s worth more than Profar surely, especially in a hitter’s heaven like Texas, and would be a big upgrade over Cruz at a bargain basement price for them.

  13. Brian McCann and a starting pitcher please. Tanaka would be a good choice if his arm is still attached.

  14. Jpa to the phillies would be a good deal

  15. Lest we forget…. AA dumped VW and his contract rather easily; ANYTHING is possible with AA. Now sign Ruiz maybe Infante then back up the Brinks truck for Tanaka.

  16. What is the difference between Granderson and Bautista few home runs, Sign Granderson for five years, for RF give a 2nd Round pick and trade Bautista, and get the players you require to enhance your team.

    Dont underestimate Bautista’s value with the contract.

    • Don’t overestimate it.

    • Your neglecting the fact that Granderson has one of the lowest Home Run distance rates, so with out that stupid yankee left field, granderson loses significant power. So its alot more then just a ‘few’ home runs

  17. I love the pic but would love it more if you could replace Steve Buscemi’s face with Gibby.

  18. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ or anything but it’s pretty dumb to reject the ‘injury prone’ label for Morrow but worry about “injury concerns” with Bautista. Both players missed significant time the past two seasons with unrelated injuries, but Bautista was 100% durable prior to that. Morrow was not necessarily so.

    Not that you’re wrong about Jose. I wouldn’t expect a full season out of him either. But after what you claimed about Morrow, it is a little contradictory.

    • Completely different things. I’m not saying Bautista’s injury prone in my own view, I’m talking about how the market sees him. I don’t worry about his injuries in the slightest, actually.

  19. Yeah I don’t see any team willing to trade for Bautista and giving back major league pieces to fill in our gaps right away. If he’s being traded he’s going to a contender, there aren’t any contenders that have spare pitching/infielders/catchers that are going to be able to step in and be an improvement on Jose’s production. You’d more than likely be looking for a Teixeira type deal when he was traded from Texas to Atlanta. Which if by July Jays aren’t close then you probably look to blow it up and do that anyways.

  20. Sal Perez for Jose Bautista straight up!

  21. [...] earlier Tuesday of the Jays upping payroll is more realistic than once thought. Andrew Stoeten at DJF goes into detail on Payroll Parameters and how the Jays realistic payroll could be in the 150 [...]

  22. [...] widely reported that the Blue Jays will push their payroll to the range of $150 million, but as Andrew Stoeten of Drunk Jays Fans suggests, with $120 million already committed and another $15 million or so required for renewal-type [...]

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