With the announcement that they have agreed to terms with the New York Mets to acquire R.A. Dickey, the Toronto Blue Jays continued their extreme roster makeover this offseason. Dave Cameron has already discussed why the Jays’ willingness to trade Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard for a player with one year of team control, though the Jays are in the middle of a 72-hour window to discuss an extension with Dickey.
To me it seems like Alex Anthopoulos & Co. took a look at the state of the AL East and determined it was time to strike. The Red Sox are coming off of a crappy season, dumped salary before the 2012 season even ended, and, even if you like the signings of David Ross, Mike Napoli (still not official), and Shane Victorino, they haven’t done much to improve a pitching staff that ranked 26th in FIP and 24th in RA9-Wins in 2012. The Yankees are, as ever, an old team with injury concerns about their core position players (A-Rod, Youkilis, Jeter, Teixeira). The Orioles probably outperformed their true talent level in 2012, and have also done nothing to upgrade their roster for 2013. The Rays, while good, just traded an above average 200+ IP for a player that probably won’t be on the Major League team until June, so one has to wonder how much the Shields-Myers trade will help them this year.
The Blue Jays responded by overhauling their roster. And while they cleaned out the farm system by trading (per Baseball America’s 2012 preseason rankings) their #1, #3, #5, #7, and #13 prospects, they did so without completely crippling themselves financially for 2013 or beyond.
Using the available data at Cot’s and the arbitration estimates available at MLB Trade Rumors, I put together an updated spreadsheet of the Jays’ player salary commitments for the coming years. It’s probably best to just view it as a Google Doc. NOTE: This spreadsheet includes a two-year, $26M extension for Dickey for 2014-2015 and arbitration estimates for 2013 for a few players (marked with **).
You can see that the team is committed to at least $90M per year through 2015; after that, they can pretty much wipe the slate clean if they want to, as only Reyes and Buehrle are left on the books. Encarnación, Izturis, Romero, and Bautista all have club options that can be bought out to save tens of millions after 2015.
In addition to betting on a weaker AL East for 2013, it seems the Jays are betting on themselves, in the meantime, to be able to restock what was an excellent farm system: going into 2012, Baseball America ranked their farm system fifth in MLB, Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus ranker them second, and John Sickels ranked them first based on their “eight B+ prospects with ridiculous depth behind them.” This process might be aided if Josh Johnson departs via free agency after 2013, and Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera doing the same after 2014.
$120M is a high payroll, and it’s likely that the Jays will have payrolls in that neighborhood for the next few years. That said, much of the money that they took this offseason is limited to a three-year window. After 2015, they will have a lot of money coming off the books, and perhaps a few extra draft picks to help them build the farm, something that they’ve done very well recently.
Hopefully for Blue Jays fans and executives, they’ll have another World Series title or two to show for it as well.