I’ve weathered many years of being called an apologist for arguing in the past that it was understandable when the Jays didn’t go after significant — or, frankly, any – free agents because of the hard lessons learned at the end of J.P. Ricciardi’s tenure, when ownership began to balk at the notion of throwing good money after bad. The absurdity of the posture, given that Rogers could buy the whole of Major League Baseball and still not bankrupt the fucking company, was immaterial; that’s the way they operate. So, with that in mind, the fear of Alex Anthopoulos having followed his predecessor down that same futile path after last season’s huge rise in spending has become increasingly palpable over this long, dim winter.

That the Jays didn’t land Masahiro Tanaka today makes it all the more so. But, of course, the winter isn’t over yet, and the Jays still have time to stop hiding behind narrow talk about value and nonsense about contract length. It would be premature of us to go rant and rave about this, our heads full of fear for what might be happening behind the scenes at Rogers with respect to payroll. But… uh… probably going to do that anyway.

It would be especially off-base if we did so, as fans sometimes have the tendency to do, forgetting that everyone operates under some conception of which costs are palatable, relative to valuation — even the Yankees, who walked away from Robinson Cano and last year from Russell Martin, and the Dodgers, who failed to make good on their reported bluster about not being outbid on Tanaka.

It’s not unfair that Alex Anthopoulos says that he values players only to a certain point. I’d say, then, that what’s frustrating is how often it seems that where he’s willing to go in an offer to a player falls short, but actually that may just be selective memory on my part and the part of other fans. For example, he overpaid, and fended off other suitors, in landing R.A. Dickey last winter, and it’s a safe bet he was the first to blink and offer an extra year to get a deal done with Maicer Izturis, and possibly did the same with Melky Cabrera as well. Ironically, those three deals are likely as reviled as any Anthopoulos has made, by the exact same sorts of people who today are aghast that the club didn’t explode the doors off the barn and go all-in on Tanaka.

The reality is, it’s easier for the Yankees or the Dodgers to blow past their valuations on top end players like Tanaka, because they have the willingness — not the resources, because just about every teams has those — to spend the money, and the understanding that more money will be there to be spent when they need another piece, or, inevitably, one of their big money deals goes terribly bad.

The Jays insist that they have the resources — Alex Anthopoulos was on the radio last week saying that there were deals he could have had done that night, if he thought the value was there — but so far they’re not showing the willingness.

I could accept that lack of willingness on a guy like Tanaka, given that gigantic offers were always bound to be coming from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and that the Jays’ interest in him may not have necessarily been mutual, but it becomes harder to take, and easier to find dubious when they try to have it both ways, like this:

Oh! So no fucking problem, then, eh???? The Jays have a shit-tonne of money to spend! Y’know, according to them. It’s just they can’t spend it, because they have a policy. A policy, that is, that we’re supposed to dumbly believe only prevents them from committing years, not dollars. Because let’s not have a conversation about where money is possibly disappearing to inside the cash-sucking behemoth of company that owns the club and doesn’t have to pay out the billions for TV rights that other clubs’ RSNs do, let’s have a talk [pushes up nerd glasses, raises voice two octaves] about value!

I mean… what a patronizing load of garbage.

In a second tweet, Lott — who, I should point out, just so we’re totally clear, as the messenger, is not the target of one iota of this ire (and also not the only one reporting it, as Shi Davidi had it as well) — adds that the club was also uncomfortable with the idea of an opt-out clause. There is certainly reason to be wary of all the back-end risk that giving the player an opt-out builds into the contract (though maybe less so when you’re supposedly only willing to go five years anyway), but what I see here is the Jays insulating themselves — and Rogers — from tough questions by using these pseudo-policies to make it look like they missed out for reasons other than money, or to make it look like they were more serious than they really were.

Their lack of comfort going beyond a certain number of years is, as I’ve said here many times, irrelevant — and that’s forgetting the fact that they’ve already admitted that they’re not necessarily going to strictly keep themselves beholden to it. It would have taken a high average annual value for the Jays to match the offer made by the Yankees ($31-million; $9-million more per season than the deal he’ll sign), but if they wanted the player badly enough, they could have matched even within the supposed policy. So by making the claim that they got scared off by the years, the Jays are only further exposing the myth. And what they’re really telling us is that any time a big ticket free agent now becomes available, they can use this facade to say that they went to their limit, had the full backing of ownership to spend lavishly, but couldn’t go any further as per their own absurd policy.

Don’t question the payroll parameters; it was the policy. Don’t say Alex isn’t out there trying to be a big time player; it was the policy. Don’t say we’re backed by a multi-kabillion dollar corporation, sitting in the fourth biggest city in North America, playing in a stadium they bought for a song with a near-billion dollar brand they bought for $160-million in 2000, stuffing millions upon millions into their pockets every year in TV rights money that they would otherwise have to pay us if the contract were actually open for bidding, and yet still operating the team like a small market organization run roughshod over a bunch of greedhead corporate jackals; it was the policy.

Why not just the truth? Because the less we hear of it, the more we get to thinking it really is closer to that dark one, unspeakable as it surely is for those on the inside of said multi-kabillion dollar corporation. [If that's it, touch your nose exactly three minutes into the Q&A portion of the State of the Franchise, Alex!]

If Tanaka wasn’t interested in coming here, why not say that? If the money isn’t there, you honestly can’t just try to sell us on the idea that for years Rogers was spending more than its payroll led on, via both the international amateur market and the draft, then point to where payroll jumped last year and make the case that even as is this is a better, deeper version of the team that everyone thought was going to be so good in 2013? If the fear is that ownership is going to take payroll backwards next winter should things not work out on the field, so you want to hedge on a potential mid-year rebuild as much as possible and don’t think the headache of adding salary is worth it… um… OK, maybe don’t say that. And if you’re just posturing for the benefit of the agents representing Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana (and Stephen Drew *COUGH*), maybe don’t say that either. But also — and this is important — maybe don’t piss in our mouths and tell us its raining.

I mean, I get that clubs can’t always be entirely truthful with fans, but don’t lob us a bag of bullshit and tell us it’s dinner.

Like… I don’t mind how the policy isn’t real, on account of how it would be monumentally fucking stupid if it were, and an affront to anyone who knows anything about the vast wealth of ownership, the value of the club, or the new economic realities of baseball, but don’t proudly hold up your soiled drawers and claim you tried real hard to make it to the big boy potty.

Because, it’s not that it wasn’t cool how you showed your willingness to overpay for somebody last year, even if it was kind of dumbly done in prospect capital and not a much less valuable asset, like cash, but don’t ask us to believe that you don’t have any of the stuff when I know THERE WAS A GODDAMN HALF BAG LEFT WHEN I GAVE IT TO YOU FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO, RANDY!

Er… OK, that last one doesn’t really work, but I think you get the idea. What happened today would have been a lot better without the whole trying to look serious while pretending we thwarted ourselves with an absurd policy thing. There would still be questions, but maybe less room for head scratching and cyncism. Losing out to the Yankees is totally understandable. Tanaka not wanting to come here, given the alternatives and money being thrown around, is unsurprising. Failing to go harder after a player you obviously wanted — enough to supposedly be interested at something near $100-million for him, on top of the $20-million posting fee — because of a ridiculous self-imposed policy is bizarre, sure, but using the supposed existence of that absurd policy to try to make it sound to your fan base like you made some kind of a run at a player you knew all along you weren’t going to get is… well… just kinda shitty. (And while, admittedly, this isn’t exactly an official pronouncement from the club… come on! It’s reasonably close-ish.)

It’s my dad’s birthday today — happy birthday, old man! — and I’m reminded of how, more than just about anything, he always taught us the value of honesty. It really does do wonders for eradicating bullshit, and keeping people from running wild and angry with whatever imperfect kernels of suspicion they can get their hands on. Again, I don’t think it’s something that sports teams owe to their fans, but I think the Jays sure could use some of it here anyway, because I’m not sure they’d be making right call if they stood pat this winter while remaining insistent on posturing that they had money all along that they simply would not spend. No, the off-season isn’t over yet, but getting fans excited for 2014 with essentially an unchanged team and the idea that they left possible payroll unspent does not sound to me like a step forward for this little baseballing project Alex Anthopoulos has embarked on, hog-tied as it supposedly is to the revenues it generates. Not in the long-term or in the short.

Or… wait, did I say honesty? I meant SIGNING FREE AGENT PITCHERS. Jays totally could use some of that.

Comments (306)

  1. Hey, the Raptors though…

  2. I wonder if the liklihood of a 4yr/50-55M deal for Ubaldo or Earvin really detracted from any real attempt at Tanaka? We’ll see what they go for, but $13M AAV for these guys seems reasonable.

  3. Not shocked Garza didn’t sign here

    Kinda surprised it was the Brewers……

  4. I agree 100% with this article, the policy is an excuse for not paying big dollars to the elite player, all of the elite players want long deals, by limiting yourself to 5 years you automatically take yourself out of the running. This is done under the guise of financial responsibility when in fact it is just being cheap, they only spent money last year because they saw a weakness in the division, the only want to compete when they think the competition isn’t there and they can compete on the cheap. Other teams will risk over paying for a declining player in his later years if they have a chance to compete in the present, not here. This team will fail, it will be blown up, the payroll will drop tumble, and the rebuild, the maybe in a few years cycle will begin again.

  5. Haven’t been able to get upset about this all. It just doesn’t really bother me. To me, refusing to go past five years for a guy who’s never pitched in North America is reasonable. And yeah, he’s 25, but he’s not your typical 25-year-old. The guy’s already put a lot of miles on that arm.
    And this is probably nitpicking, but I didn’t read anywhere that it was “The Policy” that stopped them. Just that they dropped out when it got to seven years. To me, unless I’m missing something, perhaps they were hoping for five, holding a sixth year in their back pocket, but when it got to seven they bailed. In other words, he wasn’t the guy they were willing to go beyond five for. And I think we’re losing sight of the fact there are plenty of reasons to be wary of him.

    • *Should have said “…not the guy they were willing to go all out for”

    • I’m right there with you on this one. I just don’t care what “excuses” they make. The only thing that really matters to me is if they’re making good decisions. Tanaka would have been a good addition to the team, but I feel like giving him that contract would have been the wrong move.

    • “To me, unless I’m missing something, perhaps they were hoping for five, holding a sixth year in their back pocket, but when it got to seven they bailed.”

      If the 7th year was actually the concern they could have frontloaded the deal so that the cost of the seventh was largely split amoung years 3-6. The “5 Year Policy” is just a smokescreen so that they don’t look like they’re penny-pinchers.

      • Except by all accounts the 2014 payroll is approaching its limits. I would think any longer term deal would be back loaded past 2015 when there’s more flexibility. I suppose you could, uh, middle-load a seven year deal and go really big on years 3, 4, and 5, then tail back off. But I don’t know.
        And also, it’s another big step to go from hoping for five, to willing to offer a sixth, to offering a seventh, no matter how you slice up the money.
        Is it an excuse to be penny pinchers or a smart guideline, given most longterm deals end up hampering the team?

        • The realities of modern MLB seem to be that in order to get elite talent (without emptying the farm) you have to pay elite dollars. If you don’t want that to be large yearly expenditures you have be willing to eat a few years at the end where the talent value doesn’t match the dollar value.

          How much money do the Jays have committed to 2020-2021? I’m guessing that had Tanaka signed it’d just be him and more to the point why are they worried about 2020-2021? The team could have 9 Mike Trouts by then or the team could be the 2021 version Houston Astro’s by then regardless of whether Tanaka was here or not. Hell, the economic realities of the game might be such that 22M bucks for a 32yo Tanaka is a bargain at that time. This isn’t about years… it’s about money and the Jays for whatever reason don’t want to pay the price and are unwilling to tell their customers that they don’t want to pay the price so they talk about the years.

          When you get right down to it no one goes “Woooo! fiscally prudent longterm accounting!!”… I seem to remember hearing something about flags and their tendancy to fly forever.

  6. It’s pretty easy to suggest hey lets have a payroll of $200 million with someone else’s money.

    If you look at all of the contracts given out lately by the Jays such as Bautista for $14mil (per year), Edwin for $10, Dickey for $12, Morrow for $8 one year at $10, there’s a whole lot of value there. Can’t count Buehrle or Reyes they were originally signed by someone else. So how can the Jays justify to their own players ya we gave this guy $22 $25 aav? I’m not sure EE or JB would think that a guy like Fielder is worth that much more than them. And how bad they got swindled.

    Throws their whole salary structure outta whack. You think Colby is gonna get $20+mil a year outta AA. Better call RoFo over and fill the pipe. Guys who make $10 bucks an hour wouldn’t take kindly to the guy who makes $22 for the same job. I know baseball contracts are valued differently than real life jobs. But the effect would be the same

  7. I posted this already in the other Tanaka thread after it had already died off.
    I read about half way through all this. Wasn’t going to keep going. I apologize if these points have been beaten to death already.
    I was preparing for an offseason like this one since the Jays started losing again after their June win streak. There are good reasons for the jays to not add big long contracts to this team.
    The Jays absolutely would not make playoffs this year if they signed Tanaka. Not worried about the exception to the rule (Orioles were an exception 2 years ago) The rule is, if your team looks like a 70-86 win team it will be just that. If tank adds 4 wins that might put their absolute ceiling at 90 wins. 90 wins may or may not put the team in the 1 game playoff. Why beat the Yankees offer if it’s going to give the team even less flexibility next year.
    Some pretty crazy things would need to happen for this team to contend with Tank this year and the next several years. I started to list off the players with declining skills, injury risk or question marks… Too many. Joey Bats, Lawrie, Reyes, Colby?? 2nd Base, Dickey, Morrow, Pitchers 4 and 5. If the team has a good year it will be because almost all of these players avoided injury and played near their career best.
    Is it possible that Anthopoulos is keeping this team together instead of starting a mild or extreme rebuild because this would include in ownership going a different direction with a GM, one that doesn’t include him?
    Would be a very tough tough team to fix right now. Re-builds are tough on fans and take years to see results but 3 years from now we’ll be wishing it had started sooner. But what do I know? I’m not a doctor

    • That’s playing pretty loose and broad. Boston Red Sox players with declining skills, injury risk or questions marks: Ortiz, Bogaerts, Middlebrooks, Gomes, Bradley, Pierzinski, Victorino, Peavy, Buchholz, Lackey, Dempster.

    • shit if the Jays went to rebuild in the next year or 2 they would be admitting they took one in the hoop for the Dickey deal

      • Yes, they would be admitting that. And other mistakes. Some were impossible to see coming. We won’t know for a year or 3 if Reyes was a good idea.

    • If you think it’s a “very tough team to fix right now” then you’re vastly underrating the quality of the Jays roster. A lot of things would have to break right to contend right now, and if they add a starter then they’re a legitimate Wild Card contender. They’re even in a great position if they decide to rebuild, since they have a strong farm system and a handful of EXTREMELY valuable players on their roster that they could trade for futures.

      • I don’t think I am underrating any of the Jays players.
        Colby, Brett C, Eddie, Casey J, Mark B (for 4 months) all had really good seasons. Can’t expect MORE from them all this year and at least 1 or 2 will take a step back. I think it’s too early to decide if ‘This’ Brett is all we can expect or if he will progress faster than he has.
        What EXTREMELY valuable asset do we have outside of Edwin?

  8. Garza got an entirely reasonable deal.

    I wonder what Jimenez and Santana are holding out for. If it’s in the Garza ballpark, I really hope AA would do that yesterday.

  9. So, while I’m not a fan of Garza, the Jays couldn’t beat that offer? At least that’s good news as we now have a rough idea as to what Jimenez and Santana may go for.

  10. On the one hand, congratulations Stoeten! That was an excellent rant. I’m sick of Rogers and their cheese-paring ways and I’m sick of watching my team bumble through yet another play-ft-free season.

    On the other hand: I believe Sandlot and his source. I think the Jays were probably told not to bother because Tanaka wanted a ‘big’ club with lots of history and loadsadough being thrown around and glamour glamour glamour. That would be NY or LA. My bet is that he wouldn’t have gone to Chicago either. So Beeston and AA have chosen the old ’5-year policy’ excuse as a reason why they didn’t pursue him. I don’t really blame them. The club and the city were comprehensively dissed by Farrell on his way out. The team just finished last in the division. Honesty probably didn’t feel like the best policy here. There’s no point in underlining the nasty fact that right now the team looks like the Losers of Loserville–a place Tanaka wanted no part of.

    It seems to me that we are going into spring training with so many question marks on the team we have. So many of the players had historically bad seasons. I can understand why AA wants to see what he has before going out to sign someone expensive.

    • The reason I have a really, really hard time believing that is because it would be monumentally stupid of Tanaka and his agent to flat out tell a team not to bother bidding, especially when that team is a direct competitor of the team he ultimately wants to sign with.

      • In normal circs I’d completely agree with you. It would be a really dumb move. But in this case the agent didn’t need the Jays to push the money. He already had the Dodgers saying they wouldn’t be outbid. In fact it’s much easier in this circumstance to push the money up because you have two teams bidding against each other with no interference. They each have a pretty good chance of getting the guy they want and are likely to go higher and higher to push it. A third and fourth team bidding muddies the water and can bring in extraneous additions to the contract offers that might make the two alpha teams rethink or back off a little. gotta Beat The Dodgers is an easier trap to fall into than gotta beat The Dodgers and The Cubs and The Jays.

        • Good post Isabella. Love that “Losers of Loserville” too.
          (I mean I love my Jays, but that’s too funny!)
          It’s entirely believable that Tanaka’s agent told the Jays
          - who probably were on very friendly terms having spoken to
          him a number of times – not to bother because, apart from
          Tanaka being a Yankees fan, there were enough rich suitors
          in the USA , without entertaining a Canadian bid.

    • Or maybe – instead of all this fantasy world speculation and conjecture – they were out on Tanaka because the contract violated their policy of not going to too long of a term and taking on too much long term risk.

      Why does everything have to be assumed to be so devious when the truth in plain sight? Things are never absolute so when pressed AA says there is some flexibility which is believed to just be posturing and used as evidence the policy is a myth! What AA says in the media likely has very little impact on what FA will sign for in Toronto anyway if you sit back and think about it rationally.

      Better for the venting fan to conjure up every other reason under the sun and not face facts that this is how the front office operates I suppose. If you don’t like the policy then vent about the value of lack of value it brings rather than assuming it is bs and a smokescreen for them lying. There is no evidence of that at all – all evidence points to the policy being real and the reasoning of the policy is pretty clear as well. It is a very common thing to run large businesses with minimal risk for their long term sustainability.

      • It’s a fake policy, Nick. And not at all the reason why they didn’t get Tanaka.

        • Will have to agree to disagree.

          This policy has been followed for about 15 years while Beeston has been the President of the team with very few exceptions. He has flat out said this is how he chooses to run the team and the general manager has referred to the policy many times especially in relation to these big name FAs and potential contacts with them.

          It is far fetched and arguably downright silly to say in the face of all that fact that the policy is not real and is just an excuse that is easier to use than whatever speculated real reasons there are for the deals not being done.

          • They have said the policy could be bent and have made such offers before. Ergo, it is a sham. A preference maybe, but not a real policy.

            When you parrot the company line, you do them a huge favour by telling people not to look further into why they make decisions to avoid premium free agents. This is what making it a stated policy designed for, and why I insist on calling bullshit on it when people need a little hand holding to get their minds around it.

            • Parroting the company line is not doing a huge PR favor for the team. There is no reason to look further at why they don’t land premium free agency talent. The main reason is right there as advertised. This can easily be questioned and challenged by anyone arguing that the Jays need to acquire premium talent via FA to compete – they will not do that with this policy. It is not necessarily that Rogers is cheap but that Beeston and the front office wont commit to long term risk. That is where the contention should be not on ownership for not ponying up money although that may be a secondary reason as well. When asked the front office has said that ownership has never balked at a proposed transaction. Why are we clutching at straws for reasons while saying the damning reason being advertised is a smokecreen and bs?

              • And because the policy can be bent does not mean it is a sham. It means that in circumstances where other factors balance out the risk of the long term the policy could bend. Extensions are an example there and in some scenario where they feel they are getting a player under value on AAV that could be another one.

  11. I guess the following is the part that I find so frustrating…. keeping in mind that the dude could have just as easily gone to the Dodgers:

    I grew up right when the Yankees had their irrelevant stretch. 5th and 7th place finishes. It was great. They were a joke. They drafted well and then supplemented their core with FAs that took performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens, Giambi, Rodriguez, Sheffield, etc.

    We are now in a situation where the Yankees are once again the premiere franchise in Major League Baseball, to where a guy like Tanaka could be excused for thinking that they play in a stadium with platinum seats. Not only has there not been a single negative consequence of the Yankees giving billions of dollars to cheating players, but the league has even stepped in and given them a year’s salary relief for Rodriguez!

    (I’m sure Pettitte’s suspension is coming any day now, though.)

    That’s the part that kills me. Not that they spend more. Not that they supplemented their roster with almost exclusively cheating players for 15 years. Not that they have this international mystique as a consequence. But that they did all that and Selig STILL gave them a $25 million payroll break.

  12. Garza had no compensation pick attached. Will be interesting to see if the draft comp guys get even less. When healthy, Garza is the best of the three. Of course that is not often.

  13. Garza for 52m over 4 years? That’s entirely reasonable and do-able apparently, especially for someone with AL east calibre experience. A bit disappointed.

  14. Great article Stoeten. I agree all the way.

    I mean i dont think AA needs Amaro (phillies) honesty, but all this tight lipped GMing isnt really working.

    Either spend with big boys, or build through youth like the As and Rays (like i was suggesting yesterday), if you are an in betweener, thats where you end up in the standings. In the middle, no franchise changing draft picks and no playoffs.

    The Jays have a pretty good core as it stands. Especially with a healthy Reyes, Lawrie, Morrow, Dickey etc.. If they dont go and get another proven MLB starter this off season, you really have to wonder if Rogers is really in it to win it.. or are they just trying to dupe us into buying seats at a stadium that in itself needs some serious upgrades (like real grass to protect investments they’ve already acquired)…right?

    • Lol, in the middle….. they were in 4th and last place last 2 years. speding 130 million to finish 4th or 5th.. I don’t totally get it. just trolling.
      Hey, is Syndergaard going to be called up to start games this year for the mets?

  15. [...] Stoeten has a trio of pieces that are well worth a read over at DJF. Firstly, he questions whether or not the Blue Jays really have a “five-year policy”, which was [...]

  16. e liquid uk Jays Claim They Balked At Contract Length For Tanaka | Drunk Jays Fans | Blogs | theScore.com

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