Rogers Communications isn't just the name that I use when I check into a motel to dry out for a while. It's also one of the biggest corporations in Canada, a communications behemoth with gobs of liquid cash. They own the Blue Jays, and if they wanted to, they could gold-plate every single player on the team and write it all off. That's what these big companies do: They just write it off.
But they don't do any such thing. Probably because being slathered in a precious metal isn't good for baseball playing and such, but they don't spend an exorbitant amount on the payroll, either. Here's how the Jays ranked in payroll over the last ten seasons:
That's a payroll of a team that doesn't want to go full Pirates, yet they don't really feel like competing financially with the Yankees and Red Sox is anything close to a good idea. They have their dad drop them off two blocks away from school so the kids with cars don't make fun of them. But something may be a-brewin'. From Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos used the Cubs, Red Sox and Angels as examples of teams he thought Toronto could be equivalent to in creating "a top third payroll" once the Jays become serial contenders.
"That isn’t a guess, that’s a fact," Anthopoulos said. "It’s a fact because we have done it before."
Step one: Build a contender
Step two: Make all sorts of money
Step three: Use that money to build a contender
Step four: Wait a second …
Nope, the plan is actually to build a contender on the cheap first, then reap the rewards. Maybe cheap is the wrong word. They're aiming to build a contender without going nuts, something akin to the 2011 Diamondbacks, with a mix of young talent and modest free-agent help. That will likely disappoint the vocal minority (majority?) of Jays fans who were clamoring for Prince Fielder or Yu Darvish this offseason.
And on the same day that an article is published about the Jays on the verge of becoming a major player in the AL East, there's an article in the Globe and Mail with the following passage:
Sources maintain the Blue Jays will not add another pitcher with a significant financial commitment at this time; that they are more likely to add a stop-gap, innings-eating starter if Drabek, Cecil or McGowan aren’t up to it.
Who's your default stop-gap, innings-eating starter? The one you think of when you read something like that? I'm partial to Jeff Suppan, but I guess he's out of the league now. Unless that's Jason Marquis. One of them is out of the league. The other one is the sort of pitcher the Jays are interested in. Maybe Joe Blanton.
The Jays' offense is good now, mind you. And players like Brett Lawrie, Kelly Johnson, and Colby Rasmus should help the team get better. So it would make sense for the Jays to seek out pitching that could help them win in 2012, even if it was on the expensive side. Instead, they're shooting for a surprise season first, and a bigger payroll second. Until then, they can only stare out the window and wait.
This could be the year. It's an impressive collection of talent that the Blue Jays have acquired. Most likely, next year could be when the Jays really start to contend. Their vaunted farm system will start to spit out above-average players, and the dust will settle around their collection of young arms, allowing them to figure out which of their young pitchers should be in a rotation that's hoping to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.
It should happen. And when it does, they'll start to spend. A lot. Their GM was surprisingly candid, saying as much. That's the plan, anyway. If it works out, Sherman's last line of his article nails it:
If the Yankees thought the Rays were trouble, just wait.
There's even more money in the AL East than we realize. It's just dormant, like a volcano filled with feathers and maple syrup. All they have to do first is win.