Do the Blue Jays Have to Spend to Contend?

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“You have to spend to contend” – if you asked some baseball minds out there, I’m sure they might echo these sentiments. But if you asked Alex Anthopoulos, he’d likely say quite the opposite.

Lately, I’ve been reminded of a few remarks by Paul Beeston from the past few State of the Franchise meetings. On numerous occasions, Beeston has hinted the money is there if the club wants to boost payroll.

At the time, I bought Beeston’s promises hook, line and sinker. When he said the Blue Jays are trying to build a sustainable winning team, I believed him. And when he said the Blue Jays could possibly spend upwards of $120 million in payroll, I bought it. 


However, the million dollar question is “when will that time ever come?”

The truth of the matter is the Toronto Blue Jays currently have the fourth longest playoff drought in Major League Baseball. And if the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates hold onto their respective positions, that will leave the Blue Jays with the second longest playoff drought.

And it’s not as though the front office hasn’t opened up the purse strings at all since 1993. According to Business Insider, the Toronto Blue Jays have spent a total of $1.067 billion dollars in payroll since their last playoff appearance.

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When all this information is taken into account, one can easily see why Blue Jays fans (or any Toronto sports fan for that matter) have an insatiable thirst for the playoffs; because it’s been 19 years since the Blue Jays played October baseball.

The thing about the Alex Anthopoulos regime is I’ve always felt like he’s always had a plan and this team was at least building towards something. But what’s the point of constantly building towards a goal if there is no end game?

Not that I have put my blind faith in AA, but for the most part the vision has been fairly clear. Even though it wasn’t revealed to the fanbase, at least Alex had an idea about what he was doing in where he wanted to take the club.

If there ever was a trade or signing that didn’t quite jive, I just kept telling myself “it’s all part of the plan”. But now after the Travis Snider trade, I feel like the vision to turn this club into a contender is murkier than ever.

Was it really the wisest idea to trade away an asset that the team spent the past four seasons building up, only to receive a bullpen arm in return? Brad Lincoln could very well turn out to be a great reliever, but at best he’s still a reliever.

It’s shrewd moves like that and the 10-player trade with the Astros which really don’t make much sense from the outside looking in. How exactly do those moves help improve the Blue Jays roster in the short and long term?


Another issue that could be inciting the villagers to revolt is of course, the ownership. As one of the wealthiest companies to own an MLB franchise, Rogers definitely has the cash to spend. So if the money is in the bank, why are the Blue Jays seemingly hoarding payroll?

I’m not one to advocate spending money just for the sake of spending it. We all know what happened during the 2005 offseason; the front office ramped up the payroll from $45.3 million to $71.9 million. And while expectations skyrocketed, the results remained relatively the same.

With this regime of the Blue Jays, we’ve become accustomed to this Tampa Bay Rays style “lean and mean” payroll. Prospects are more highly coveted than ever, and it seems like the words “free agent” have become the equivalent of dirty words.

I get that the Blue Jays aren’t one, two, three or maybe even four pieces away from contention. They could have blown their pocketbook and signed Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Carlos Beltran … and that still might not be enough to get them into the playoffs.

As ridiculous as it sounds, when a team signs a player to a multi-year contract, to me that signals that the organization wants to win. When they trade a player like Travis Snider, it feels more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Much like Blue Jays blogging cohort The Ack, I’m beginning to question where exactly the Alex Anthopoulos and the Toronto Blue Jays are going.


If all of this truly is part of the plan, then I sincerely apologize. It’s just that Alex Anthopoulos is so incredibly secretive that fans often have to write their own narrative for the future of the team because AA plays things so close to his chest.

When your favourite team hasn’t played in the postseason for 18 years,
thinks can look pretty bleak at times. I mean, I was nine years old the
last time the Blue Jays made the playoffs … those days almost seem
like a distant memory by now.

So do the Blue Jays have to spend to contend in the American League East? I don’t think they need to go broke and sign all the best free agents out there by any means, but throw the fans a bone every once in a while.

Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays front office don’t
to justify their existence by spending money frivolously. After all,
$10 million or $20 million is a drop in the bucket for a billion dollar

Paul Beeston can only dangle the $120 million dollar payroll carrot out in front of fans for so long before they start to lose interest. I understand that he was trying to instill a sense of hope, but it was counterproductive by throwing out that arbitrary number and then not spending it.

Ultimately, I don’t really care which method the Blue Jays use to get themselves to the playoffs. Whether Alex Anthopoulos wants to build from the ground up and create a sustainable winner, or whether he wants to go broke and get the best players on the market, I have no preference.

So long as it gets the Toronto Blue Jays back to the playoffs and hopefully another World Series victory, that’s all that matters to me. It doesn’t matter how the Blue Jays get there, it just matters that they get there.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

17 thoughts on “Do the Blue Jays Have to Spend to Contend?

    • August 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      Whether it's $120, $150 or $200 million dollars, it seems like the dollar amount is almost arbitrary.

      Where the issue lies is it feels like Beeston was just dangling that number out in front of fans as something the Blue Jays COULD spend, but aren't right now. In that case, I almost would have preferred he said nothing at all about ramping up payroll.

  • August 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Jays are either leading (or led) MLB in runs scored. People need to take their hyper-analytical brains out of their butts sometimes and just look at the basics. Jays can score runs. Now. And will be able to do so again in 2013.

    They are the opposite when it comes to P – for now, starters injuries and bullpen blowout. For 2013, they're back to Romero, Morrow, Alvarez, maybe Hutchison and a cast of 1000s. They need 2 SP worth 10-15M each to really contend. The rebuilt pen looks promising.

    So yes, add 30M, and let's go.

    • August 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      See here's the problem with thinking like this. "They need 2 SP worth 10-15M each to really contend" The problem is high-paid player does not always equal good player. Boston has two 15M pitchers in Beckett and Lackey, and look where that got them, they'd trade each of them for a bag of bricks if a team were to offer that much. You don't need high paid players just GOOD PLAYERS, let's not repeat JP Ricciardi's mistakes here people.

  • August 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    I have an issue with this article if I may state it, and that is that you are missing the bigger picture, it is called time frame.

    When the Jays traded Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum, did you think the team was going to be instantly better? Cause if you did then you clearly missed the boat in which AA was recently rearranging the deck chairs.

    When he made those trades it was to beef up the farm system so in 3-5 years the Jays could compete. As AA was extremely agressive in drafting highschool bats, most of these guys will not arrive for 5 years. So how can you whine and say AA doesn't buy me anything nice. It would be the equivalent of your dad buying you a sports car for your 13th B day. Yeah it is great and you are excited, but you can't drive it for three years and in three years it may be out of date. So why would AA buy Beltran a 35 year old veteran whose best days are behind him only to see the team compete when he is clogging up the payroll as a bench player? Or Fielder, yeah he would have been great… but at 200M you have to be kidding me.

    The biggest issue I have with Jays fans is that they haven't let the rebuild run it's course. If you look at the players on the Jays team how can you not see that they can compete in the next 1-2 years. (Lawrie, Rasmus, Escobar, EE, JPA, Morrow, Romero) are all under 30 and form the core of this roster. Not to mention the Jays also have a guy named Joey Bats.

    So please explain to me what would have been the point to buy free agents the last 2 years? (To satisfy uninformed fans who have the attention span of a toddler? To block prospects from getting big league time? To win 1-2 more games this season and still miss playoffs? Year 3 of the rebuild is coming to an end, this is the point now where the Jays are on the precipice of sustained success. Get ready to pick out a new Ferrari this offseason.

    • August 3, 2012 at 1:58 am

      Maybe it's the slew of injuries, maybe it's the sweep at the hand of the Mariners, but for some reason now is just a tough time to be a Blue Jays fan. I'm willing to give AA and Beeston some time to figure it out, because building a contender doesn't happen overnight.

      My issue is the almost seemingly aversion to signing free agents. For example, David Ortiz would be a great option at DH next season, but I highly doubt Toronto will make a play for him.

      Sure, it would cost maybe $10 million to bring him in, but that's chump change in the grand scheme of the Blue Jays payroll.

      Again, if this is all part of the … I apologize. But I do look forward to seeing that Ferrari in the driveway within the next 5 years.

  • August 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Andy, great comments, but you missed a few key facts. Runs scored is and will always be paramount to winning ball games. That being said, it is not how many runs scored but when!
    They Jays can hit, and although this season has not shown it, they can pitch as well. Adding two front line pitchers will help, but it will not solve their issues or get the into the post.
    If we are going to make a run at post, and hopefully the world series, we need to add a lot more pieces and expect career years from some current players.

  • August 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    AA gave the clearest indication of his tenure up to now that he intends to spend this winter. He said the following reported by Richard Griffin in The Star:

    “I guess it’s the same mantra I’ve always talked about,” Anthopoulos said on a post-deadline conference call. “We’re always trying to continue to make the club better and we’re certainly not going to make a move for the sake of making a move, or make a quote-unquote splash for the sake of doing that. I think there’s plenty of opportunities to those types of things in free agency in the winter.”

    To me the last line represents a sea change in what he`s said previously. When asked how he was going to build the team it was always about trades and promoting prospects nearly every time. He said he saw little value in free agents. The high prices for guys like Latos and Gonzales this winter along with the high asking prices at the deadline have obviously changed that outlook. The pendulum certainly seems to have swung so far the other way that free agents are starting to look valuable again. With restrictions on loading up on prospects under the new CBA those same prospects certainly have increased in value to teams. You can no longer reload your system in a year or two like AA did between the 2010 and 2012 drafts. He knows that where the team is currently inserting the right veteran is going to mean more to the club in 2013 than it would this year or last.

    • August 3, 2012 at 2:04 am

      I certainly hope you're right. Even if the Blue Jays have to slightly overpay to bring in a starting pitcher, I'm okay with that. Because like you said, the asking price for SP's last offseason was insane. If they can get a Greinke, Lohse or Edwin Jackson for a 2-3 year deal, then by all means they should go for it. Because by the time the next crop of stud pitchers are ready, Bautista, Encarnacion and others will be long gone.

  • August 3, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I started watching this team (again) ni 2007. From '07 to 2010, the question was always, either "How are we going to replace this guy, we have nobody coming up?" or "why do we have this huge contract handcuffing the team." There are no core players leaving in 2013, and very few lined up to leave in 2014. There are no albatross contracts to factor into that payroll calculation.

    To continue the boat metaphor, sometimes, it takes a little time to turn the Titanic around.

    • August 3, 2012 at 2:09 am

      Excellent point. The team is now at a point where one could very easily name a successor to almost every position player the Blue Jays have right now.

      This build will take time, but I guess the villagers just need to reminded every once in a while that the ship is headed in the right direction.

  • August 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I'd agree with most of the comments made. Personally, I can understand AA's philosophy of trying to build a perennial playoff threat. However, that won't happen for 3-5 years when the new crop of guys get a bit of MLB playing time.
    I'd rather overpay a free agent or two to fill the holes that we have at starting pitching than raid the prospect pantry. I think we've got 4 or 5 untouchables down in the minors – who, to no one's great surprise, are who other GM's are asking for in return in any trade.
    I'd like to think that AA's done a good job drafting and the minor league system has grown an excellent home grown crop of players. I can see Gose, Hechy and D'arnaud making the team next year – and any one of Sanchez, Niccolino and Syndergard the year after perhaps. Things are looking up for the future…it's just the present that looks grim.

    • August 4, 2012 at 4:08 am

      I just don't think there's any way the Blue Jays can compete next year unless they do in fact plug a few holes and spend some cash this off-season. I'm not saying they need to sign Josh Hamilton or anything, but getting a starting pitcher for the next 2-3 years might not be a bad idea.

    • August 8, 2012 at 2:21 pm

      Not too many impact free agent pitchers who will sign for 2-3 years. Let's not rehash Edwin Jackson since he held out for 5 and then changed gears at the last moment to rebuild value. He will be after 4-5 years this offseason.

  • August 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Beeston was simply answering another question that was around at the time "Will Rogers spend the money?" There was not a timetable given as to when the money would be spent just that he could see it going there. He thought that Toronto fans were insightful enough that he could be honest with that tidbit of information and not have it blow up in his face. Ha! Boy was he wrong!

    • August 4, 2012 at 4:07 am

      The problem is that when you say "payroll could rise up to $120-$130 million" and you don't increase payroll, people can take that as withholding money. Especially considering who owns the team, people know the money is there.

    • August 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Yes that's true but it is still a business for Rogers. I don't even think Rogers has any problem spending that money, they just haven't been asked for it by AA. I think AA is copying a model that he has seen work (Gillick's) and he will only ask for it when a couple of starters have made a larger step forward and the Jays have actually played in October.

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