Archive for the ‘Payroll Parameters’ Category

johnsonhits

The Jays did what was expected of them and what they needed to do over the weekend, losing to Yu Darvish on Friday, but gaining ground on the first place Orioles with a pair of wins against Colby Lewis and Nick Tepesch, winning their first series of the “second half,” and coming through a series for the first time in who-knows-how-long without the spectre of yet some other player landing on the DL.

There was another spectre that hung over the club this weekend, though, and it wasn’t an unfamiliar one.

Bob Elliott tweeted on Friday night that he’d heard from a source that the Jays had been telling other teams that they can’t take any money back in trade.

That itself would be bad enough — though we could at least try to convince ourselves it’s possible the report is wrong, or that the club is only just saying that as some sort of bargaining tactic — but then Alex Anthopoulos had to go and be coy with media about it, issuing a textbook non-denial denial when asked about the money.

Prior to yesterday’s win, Anthopoulos told reporters, like Scott MacArthur of TSN.ca, “We can add players. We have the ability to have that dialogue at any time. I don’t see any reason why we won’t be able to add players and obviously players make money. No one plays for free.”

Not exactly a comforting statement, given that they’ve obviously added a bunch of league-minimum guys so far this year, and that the real question is whether they can add a big ticket item.

Jeff Blair writes about this subject as well, in his latest for Sportsnet, suggesting the Jays will have flexibility next winter, but only because of expensive players like Brandon Morrow, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera, Sergio Santos, J.A. Happ, Adam Lind, and Casey Janssen potentially coming off the books.

I don’t think they’re clever enough to have done so by design, but Rogers and the front office have certainly made it difficult to single one or the other out for blame in this mess. The payroll the Jays are running is very healthy — the 10th best in baseball — and the fact that it appears to be maxed out isn’t really Rogers’ problem, when you think about it. It’s the front office’s job to allocate the payroll dollars, and if ownership has given them a healthy budget, the problem — at least in their eyes and the eyes of those bizarrely sympathetic to them — lies with the front office. The reality is, if course, more complicated than that. One hopes that the front office didn’t max out it’s theoretical budget in the winter prior to 2013 with misguided assuredness that they would be so good on the field that future payroll concerns would be rendered moot. The coronation-like atmosphere that surrounded the club last season certainly doesn’t make one think that they mightn’t have been, though. And as I argued around here at the time of the Ervin Santana embarrassment, it’s not like executives who were part of J.P. Ricciardi’a front office should have been surprised when Rogers refused to keep pushing the spending maximum after their massive outlay of cash yielded so little return on investment.

So, it’s not all cheap Rogers, and it’s not all dumb Anthopoulos, it’s just more embarrassment for an organization that often seems to have a little too comfortable a relationship with embarrassment.

I mean, for fuck sakes, the team is so well positioned for the first time in so long, and this is what we seriously fucking get? Fans left to bicker over which tier of this organization is more short-sighted and inept?

It’s maddening as fuck that Rogers doesn’t see the value in pushing payroll just a few percentage points higher — figuring, then, that the abject failure of their handpicked baseball men is a better option than budging an inch on the budget for a branch of the company that provides such tremendous cheap content to their many TV networks and other other platforms, and that could be a strong, positive pillar of their brand — and also that the front office can’t or won’t convince them otherwise. It makes one understand, just a little bit, the chorus of fucks screaming, “DO SOMETHING, ASSHOLES!!”

I don’t think it’s necessarily that simple, though, either. The club was able to get players to sign off on deferrals this spring in order to free enough 2014 payroll to bring in Ervin Santana, and while it’s as least as much of a cruel fucking sad joke as that scheme (not to mention possibly more difficult to pull off in-season), one would think that option might still be out there. Or… like I said, maybe the original report is simply untrue.

The whole, sorry history of this ownership makes it seem entirely plausible, though, but for the moment we just don’t really know what to believe — and we probably won’t know for six more weeks, until after August’s deadline for trades involving players who have passed through waivers.

What almost especially sucks — “almost” because it all does indeed fucking suck — is that this is the conversation we’re having on a weekend where the Jays gave us signs that they may actually be able to snap out the funk they’ve been in. They scored runs, they looked like the break served its purpose, the schedule ahead is favourable, and they got word that some of their injured players are making better progress than expected. The ultra-cynical can be forgiven for thinking it’s just another serving of false hope, but Edwin Encarnacion is swinging off a tee, Adam Lind is out of his walking boot and swinging off a tee, and Brett Lawrie is out of his splint and taking ground balls, with swinging and gripping a bat his next step.

And frankly, as eye-rollingly frustrating as it would be to once again have the club try to use the fucking “hey, getting those guys back is as good as making a trade” line, at this point I can live with that. Just hold on for another couple weeks, for fuck sakes, and I can live with that.

pillarsuperman

Just because.

Shi Davidi posted a piece at Sportsnet on Wednesday night, in the afterglow of what was certainly the most unlikely of the nine straight wins of the Jays’ recent streak, that in many ways focused the cold, hard light of reality on the club’s current situation. Though ostensibly about Brandon Morrow’s recovery from a torn tendon sheath in his index finger, and the huge boost a healthy Morrow (who dealt with soreness in the area of the finger, we’re told, for three weeks before the injury occurred) could give this team, the piece also touched on the viability of Liam Hendriks — who, you may have noticed, needed every damn inch of the Rogers Centre to get away with his impressive two-run, three-hit, zero-walk, five-strikeout line yesterday — as well as the viability of any Jays plans to take on salary via the trade market, and even their draft budget.

That last bit was the really eye-popping one, buried as it was, as Davidi told us that, right now, “money is so tight the Blue Jays won’t even have their usual war chest for next week’s draft.” That is, of course, unless “the Blue Jays continue to play well, remain atop the American League East, attendance rises and the TV ratings spike further.”

The doubting ultra-cynic could maybe see a not-so-subtle message in there from the masters of the club, but it’s certainly just as easy to take it at face value, too. “Cheap-jack shit-fuck Rogers” is an easy narrative for a good reason. There’s something to it. As Shi puts it earlier in the piece, “if the money wasn’t there” when the club need players to make deferrals in order to sign Ervin Santana, “there’s no reason to think it will be there in July with the Blue Jays already at their 2014 budget of roughly $135 million.”

Except… isn’t there? Shouldn’t there be?

Would Rogers be so unresponsive to even the business case that surely could be made for turning a small payroll add into a better-assured ratings and attendance bonanza that ultimately means the initial investment easily pays for itself?

Looking at the way the club operated this winter one might be inclined to quickly say yes. But before we throw our hands up and resign ourselves to being governed by the pathological corporate hive mind of Rogers, let’s remember that a lot may have changed by the time of the trade deadline. The Jays will have a much better sense of their playoff chances — i.e. whether or not an investment would be a waste or not. They will have the advantage of needing a much smaller payroll commitment to add a piece then than they would have over the winter, with two-thirds of the season being in the books by the time of the July 31st trade deadline, and therefore two-thirds of the players’ salary off the books. And, as Davidi reminds us cynics, a strong showing in terms of ratings and attendance could absolutely still change things.

Yet here we’re being told that “general manager Alex Anthopoulos may be forced to seek trades that are revenue neutral – foisting Ricky Romero on someone for a prospect as part of a bigger deal might be one way to do it – in order to make a substantial addition.”

Weird, huh? Somewhat absurd, too (someone’s really taking Romero and enough of his salary to make such a move not entirely pointless?). But mostly weird. And even weirder still is this suggestion that the club may not even have their “usual war chest” for the draft.

Honestly, though, I’m not even sure what that means. They don’t exactly need a “war chest” for next week, because the deadline to get draft picks signed isn’t until mid-July– though, ideally, they’d want to have some idea of their upper spending limit, if it was going to be imposed artificially by ownership. More importantly, the war chest idea seems like a relic of the old collective bargaining agreement. There have been two drafts so far under the November 2011 CBA, and only once has any team in baseball been more than $600K either above or below their bonus pool allotment. In 2013, according to Baseball America, the Astros ended up spending $877K less than their league-high bonus pool of $11.7-million. That year the Jays, mostly because of their inability to use above-slot money earmarked for Phil Bickford, spent $424K less than their final pool allotment total that year. The year before the Jays spent $441K over.

In other words, teams of late don’t really seem to actually have a war chest, like in the old days. They have a ballpark figure that’s already budgeted for based on the pool allotment that has long been known. And the Jays’ failure to sign Bickford last summer makes it even harder to figure what their “usual” war chest even is. In 2012 they spent $9.2-million; in 2013 they spent $3.05-million.

Obviously that doesn’t mean that the club couldn’t try to pull off some weird outlier bullshit and ignore the bonus pools altogether, under-drafting like those teams who dumbly tied themselves to slot recommendations under the previous CBA, I guess. But… really? It’s a sad testament on Rogers’ stewardship of the Jays that we think it’s even possible the club might actually sink a whole draft (or at least a significant part of it… or any part of it, really). After all, it’s the once-a-year player-acquisition apparatus Alex Anthopoulos sold as being absolutely integral to the club, and much of the reason they invested so much in scouting infrastructure early in his tenure (and continue to do so). It’s simply bizarre to think that they could genuinely be less than serious on this because either no one at the head office gives enough of a shit about the club to be sympathetic (even to the best of business cases) about adding budget, or because the front office was unwilling to take a hit in terms of on-field talent in order to find more wiggle room under that “2014 budget of roughly $135 million” to avoid laughable, brand-damaging decimation of their future. But… do we really? Do we seriously think that’s an actual, possible outcome?

The fact that I wrote this same kind of “come on, guys, there’s no fucking way” shit at the start of this winter about the payroll in general, only to see it frozen solid in defiance of my highest hopes — at least until those deferral agreements from the players — plants a big ol’ seed of doubt underneath the scoffing at the impossibility of the club doing something completely fucked up and backwards that I’m doing here. I mean, Rogers could grandstand on this. They could say that they simply set the team’s budget and that it was the front office who didn’t do enough to clear room for the entirety of the bonus pool “war chest” to fit within it. Shit, the front office might even have a defensible position on that, given their job status, having chosen to spend on the win-now big league roster and deal with a less-than-ideally-robust draft budget later on.

But… really?

In our worst fears taken from those little words our heads are sent spinning with thoughts of unprecedented, powerfully detrimental, utterly shameful cheapness. And again, it’s not like it isn’t easy to assume the worst about Rogers — though, to be fair, this year’s Jays’ payroll is higher than that of Arizona, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Colorado, Seattle, Kansas City, Chicago (AL), San Diego, the Mets, the Cubs, Minnesota, Oakland, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Miami, and Houston — and if the club really did such a thing they’d get all the vitriol from this corner that such an action would deserve. But… really??? We’re just going to go ahead and assume that this is a foregone conclusion and an unequivocal affront and start shaking with terror at the possibility, and the possibility that the team’s insistence on revenue-neutral trades will undermine their ability to actually add anything of value at the deadline (hence, perhaps, the building of the narrative that Morrow — and his sudden professed affinity for not trying to “do too much” — can be a real impact mid-summer add) and killing off what right now looks like it could turn into a really, really special season? Because we assume they’re totally just not posturing now, figuring there are better negotiating tactics than openly admitting they’re looking to spend like drunken sailors?

I sure as hell hope not. I mean, I get the underlying worry, for sure, but let’s maybe wait until we actually have some tangible evidence of what’s any of these things Davidi says may become issues before we go nuts, eh? Yes, I’ve been burned on this phrase before, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Until I do, there are far better things to dwell on. For example: DID YOU SEE THAT FUCKING GAME LAST NIGHT!??!!?!!

 

Screengrab via @DesaiDevang.

gammons

Don’t be dissuaded by the title — some nonsense about the “Anti-Analytic Buehrle” — and check out the chat that Alex Anthopoulos had the other day with Peter Gammons… Peter Gammons… Peter Gammons… Peter Gammons… Gaaaaaaaa-mmons, Gaaaaaaa-mmons, Gaaaaaaa-mons (etc.). It’s up and burying the shit out of the lede over at Gammons Daily.

In it, somewhere near the bottom after a look at how the Jays have brought us to this heartening moment in the season, Alex Anthopoulos divulges like he does for no other — or at least no local reporter — explaining his thoughts on the forming trade market, and what he thinks makes the most sense for his club to do as they look to make reinforcements for a stretch run.

We are pretty much maxed out in terms of payroll,” he explains, “but more important, we cannot keep trading our young pitchers. We also have to be realistic about whom we can extend if we make a trade for him.”

The payroll stuff… well… obviously. It’s dumb, of course, but this is a club that had players ready to defer money in order to try to add Ervin Santana this spring before all of that fell apart. Sure, there have been rumours — or at least open wonderings — that the restrictions on payroll may loosen should a situation exactly like the one the club now finds itself in arise (especially if the TV and attendance numbers strongly rise). So, it’s possible that, like the acknowledgement that they don’t want to inflict another blow on their farm system, this may simply be posturing. It’s just, given what happened this winter, that’s a hard one to swallow.

Worse still, this make one wonder if the club might even be inclined to wait until the last possible moment to make a deal, rather than taking an extra 1/6th of a player’s salary by adding him in June instead of July. Maybe — hopefully? — they wouldn’t need to count their nickels and dimes so carefully, but this is the Jays we’re talking about. This is Rogers.

At least we’re not talking about being sellers, though, right???

In his next paragraph, Gammons zeroes in on the part about extensions:

The Blue Jays know that neither Price nor Samardzija will sign an extension with Toronto before hitting the free agent market at the end of the 2015 season. “We have been feeling out teams and doing background work,” Anthopoulos says. “I think we’d probably look at something where we have a pitcher for the rest of this season. That makes sense.”

I’m not sure it’s necessarily a foregone conclusion that neither Price nor Samardzija would extend here — it all depends on the price — but more importantly, so… we’re looking at a rental? I can live with that. It means a significantly lower cost, in terms of prospects, and leaves the club’s rotation options open for 2015. “Options open” is certainly the positive way to spin it, and I get going after a long-term piece, but there’s no need to try to force a move for a guy who fits every single one of the club’s needs. A rental sounds fine, and Gammons lists Justin Masterson, Francisco Liriano, and Jason Hammels as possibilities. Can we throw ol’ Pete Puma’s name into the mix there as well? Yes, I think we can.

That is, if we really think we can take Anthopoulos seriously on any of this. Which, of course, we kind of can’t.

 

Image, of course, via.

rogerscentre

In a twist that makes me think again about the possibility of the front office using the media as an instrument to exert pressure on Robbers Communications, Alex Anthopoulos was on Prime Time Sports on the Fan 590 on Friday, preceding his club’s home opener against the New York Yankees, and like Paul Beeston earlier in the day he confirmed the payment deferral scheme first reported by Ken Rosenthal last Thursday at Fox Sports, and — most intriguingly — was coy when it came to the question of who initiated it.

In response to Stephen Brunt broaching subject, the GM explained:

“How the money would have been allocated — how that would have been done — regardless, if something like that was to happen or not, that wouldn’t have been hidden. So, if anybody restructures their contract or defers money — like you talk about, Stephen — the union would have to sign off on that. That’s made available to everybody, no one would have been hiding anything at all. And there’s things we may choose to do, from a payroll standpoint, from a contractual structure standpoint, that might make more sense for us. But irrespective of the fact, we had the ability to sign him, this is where he told us he wanted to be, and we were prepared to go forward with it.

What the fallout from that is, or this story, I know where a lot of people want to go with it, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we have the dollars to sign the player. Again, how that money was going to be allocated, how it was going to be done, those are things I would keep to myself.

What gets me here, and should get every Jays fan, is the fact that the door was wide open for Anthopoulos to say that this was solely a player-initiated thing, that it wasn’t necessary, that ownership is great, that the dollars were there, and that everything is peachy between the Jays and the corporate monolith that controls their cash flow and owns the network that clutches the no-bid contract for their TV rights that is astonishingly valuable in this era of live event programming being the only thing of any worth in TV, and other clubs auctioning off their own rights for multiple billions — much like the NHL rights deal Rogers itself recently signed. Yet he unequivocally doesn’t.

Read the rest of this entry »

beestonStCatharines

Oh lord. Here’s what I’m sure is exactly the way the Jays were hoping to spend a love-in of a day with baseball returning to the city for a new year, full of new hopes and a small sense of optimism pulled out of the fire thanks to a Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, and the people of Montreal: Payroll Parameters!

But, of course, thanks to last night’s report at Fox Sports from Ken Rosenthal, it’s no longer avoidable, and Paul Beeston sure didn’t do much to stop the story’s momentum when he joined the excellent Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning earlier today.

You can hear the full audio here, and it’s worth a listen, as he rambles into bizarre territory about the necessity of building the farm system and having young, controllable, cheap talent on the roster (sort of like the kind that the Jays traded away last year in what we now see as a feeble and suddenly-unsustainable push to become competitive), and also addresses the craft beer situation in purely myopic, short-term, capitalist terms, after first trying to make the suggestion that Labatt and Budweiser (majority owned by Belgian-Brazilian multinational Anheuser Busch-InBev) should count as locally brewed. But it was the budget stuff and the deferral scheme that provided the money quotes.

“There was discussion about that, Matt,” he said when asked about the deferral report. “And to be very honest with you, I think if it had gone that way it would have been fine.”

Let’s not mince words: that Beeston was aware of this is insane. That it went to his level, and that he didn’t say “I’ve heard of that report but I can’t speak to it, I know nothing about it,” bends the mind just a little bit. Or at least brings up thoughts of Alex Anthopoulos in his office, smacking himself in the forehead as he listens. And that he didn’t bother to clarify whether the suggestion came from the club or the players? Just… wow.

It also maybe plays into the speculation I was indulging in the previous post about the front office perhaps wanting this sort of thing to get out there, but realistically, they’ve got six months of the season left to do a thing like that, and I’m preeeety sure this isn’t what anybody down there wants to be talking about on a day like today. Unfortunately for them, though, Beeston — who, I must concede, may be more shrewd in all this than I’m about to give him credit for — continued.

“Well, we’re a business!” he exclaimed when asked if the club’s budget has been capped. “We’re a business. So the answer to that is we have a budget. So the answer is it’s not ‘capped,’ because we can increase our revenue, we can increase our expenses, but we run it as a business, Matt.”

It was at that point that Galloway asked him what that means for the club as a business when other teams have continued building and the Jays have already spent their money last year — a point which Beeston tacitly conceded, before diving into an explanation about building through other means, such as trades and the draft. Beeston then slipped in a statement about money not being a problem, before talking about building a system with guys like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez (and evidently not Noah Syndergaard, Henderson Alvarez, Justin Nicolino, Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, etc.), who are the kinds of players, we’re told, that you need to integrate into your organization. “You need a mixture of the players who are at the minimum together with the ones that are your stars,” he lectures.

So, in essence, we’re back to square one with this crew. Also: stars and scrubs, everyone! Always works!

Ugh. And it’s just… you get the sense that in a different era, before the internet — which he doesn’t use — exploded and the fans learned all the minutiae about this club that they could stuff into their brains, maybe Beeston would be able to get away with this kind of stuff and not come off like a hopeless bullshit-fanning old hack. It’s like the difference between Rob Ford speaking to people who are even just mildly interested in the details of whatever paint-by-numbers talking point garbage he’s trying to slam his way through on, and him speaking to people who are still swept up by all the hollow narratives and reductive populism.

Beeston could be the mayor of the Jays equivalent of Ford Nation, in other words, but when people are actually paying attention to what he says and does, it gets kinda tricky.

tedstatue2

In a move that ought to be unfathomable — but, of course, is entirely fathomable because of the company we’re ultimately talking about here — in Ken Rosenthal’s latest for Fox Sports, he tells us that last month Blue Jays players offered to restructure their contracts in order to help the team free up the payroll necessary to get Ervin Santana’s name on a deal, and his arm into the club’s rotation.

It was as if the Toronto Blue Jays passed around a hat, trying to collect enough money to sign free-agent right-hander Ervin Santana.

Several Jays players discussed deferring portions of their salaries to clear payroll for Santana last month, according to major league sources.

Apparently the talks didn’t get past the conversation stage — Rosenthal spoke to an agent who explained that even if they did, they wouldn’t likely have been able to get the scheme past the union — but that’s not really the point, nor is that whole bit even the damn kicker here. We’re also told that “it is not clear whether the impetus for the talks about deferring money came from the players or from the Jays’ front office. The players, however, likely would not have engaged in such discussions unless they believed the team was unable or unwilling to pay Santana $14 million.”

Um… what?

There’s a chance that management may have come to the players with this?

There… really can’t be, though, right? Not really.

I mean, sure, there’s a chance of anything, but this is just Rosenthal covering his bases and making as clear as possible what the information he has is, even though it almost certainly must have been a suggestion coming from players desperate to see the team sign their friend, make good on their commitment to actually try to be a competitive baseball team, and add to a rotation in desperate need. Right???

Read the rest of this entry »

ubaldoblue

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t whispers out there that the Jays may, in actuality and not just in posture, be more inclined to simply go with the rotation options they’ve got and hide behind nonsense about value — as though the deals Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana sign aren’t going to be chock full of value thanks to the way that the compensation picks tied to them have depressed their markets, which, of course, was the whole point of chasing them in the first place. I’ve also heard the opposite, though, so I’m not sure what exactly to make of anything at this point.

A lot of fans urging the club to do something tend to fail to look at things from the agents’ perspective. Anthopoulos must act, they say, because surely other teams will run into injuries that will make them reconsider the asking price on still-available arms, but isn’t that exactly the reason for the agents to continue to hold firm on their number, and not settle on terms dictated by the Blue Jays? I think so, which is why I don’t count myself among those fans. But it’s hard not to let some ugly thoughts creep in about it when you see a thing like what Jon Heyman wrote this morning at CBS Sports.

One person familiar with [the Blue Jays'] thinking suggested there was at least some talk at the beginning of the winter about looking to spend $8 million to $9 million a year on a 2- or 3-year deal on one or more of the available starters. Even taking the higher numbers, say $9 million per annum for three years, that would seem to be a stretch to the low side to lure someone such as Santana or Jimenez.

That sure would seem like a stretch, though bless ‘em for trying, I guess. But how, after acknowledging openly for so long that they need a front line starter, could that have possibly been the plan at any point?

Is Heyman’s source wrong? Is Heyman’s old pal Scott Boras telling him this just to be a fly in Paul Beeston’s ointment? Did something change? Was it Guy Laurence? The Canadian dollar? Was the two-year, $20-million deal the Mets signed with Bartolo Colon too rich for the Jays’ blood???

Read the rest of this entry »