While the Blue Jays have been paying some big salaries to their veterans for a few years now, it won’t be long until those commitments are off the books and the front office will have plenty of resources at their disposal.
For all the griping that ownership has been cheap over the years, the Blue Jays have actually spent quite a bit of money over the last five seasons. Guys like Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Marco Estrada, and J.A. Happ all had eight figure salaries, and there are three that remain in Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Kendrys Morales.
As the roster continues to get younger it will also get cheaper, which gives Ross Atkins and the front office a lot of flexibility with how they build their roster. While rumours of interest in someone like Dallas Keuchel may not make sense in the immediate term, Atkins knows he’s going to have money to spend down the road, and Keuchel could still be very helpful by the time this team is ready to truly compete again.
In fact, if we’re looking at guaranteed salaries for the Blue Jays after this year, there are next to no hard commitments. Both Morales and Martin are on the final years of their respective deals, and Tulowitzki has just two years left, with a club option that will almost assuredly be declined. While he’ll make 20 million again in 2018, fortunately his salary goes down to 14 million in 2020, and includes a four million dollar buyout for the following season. Other than Tulowitzki, the only other guaranteed contract belongs to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who will make 2.5 million along with a signing bonus of $428,571 to bring it to $2,928,571. That’s it.
There other players under contract control, like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez for example, but they’ll be going through their final pass of arbitration at that point, assuming neither is extended beforehand. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the Blue Jays would cut them or others loose, but the point is they are not on a guaranteed contract.
Realistically the Blue Jays are hoping to build a young core around guys like Gurriel Jr, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen, Nate Pearson, and several others, and there’s a good chance they’ll all be on a similar timeline with their big league service time. That will work great in the short term for Atkins as he brings in veteran pieces to supplement his young core, but eventually it will make for an expensive roster. However, that’s a problem for future Ross (and us), and something they and we can’t worry about until we see how the careers of some of these youngsters play out.
It might not look pretty right now, or anytime in 2019 really, but the Blue Jays have a chance to build something special. Look at what the young core of the Chicago Cubs have accomplished so far together, and you can dream on the potential of this Blue Jays team in the future. I expect Atkins and company will be patient until the right player comes along, and hopefully they’ll hit on more Jon Lester‘s than Jayson Heyward’s when they choose to spend money.
The cool thing is, they’ll have the money to chase pretty much whomever they want when the times comes. It takes two to tango, but as I said last week, there are two things that free agents want more than anything: a chance to win, and to be paid. If Atkins plays this right over the next couple of years, they should be able to offer both in spades.